TAMPA, Fla. — French maritime surveillance provider Unseenlabs plans to launch its 12th and 13th nanosatellite no earlier than March, passing the halfway mark for a constellation slated to begin tracking vessels in near real-time in 2025.

German launch services provider Exolaunch will integrate the BRO-12 and BRO-13 (Breizh Reconnaissance Orbiter) satellites on a Falcon 9 due to fly from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, Unseenlabs announced Feb. 20, as part of SpaceX’s Transporter 10 rideshare mission.

According to Unseenlabs CEO and cofounder Clement Galic, its radio-frequency geolocation network of 11 satellites can currently monitor and track signals from ships across the world’s oceans every four to six hours. 

The nine-year-old venture launched commercial services soon after deploying its first satellite in August 2019, Galic told SpaceNews via email, and has since racked up a mix of undisclosed commercial and government customers.

He said companies can use the constellation to get more up-to-date data on ship positions for insurance, traffic management, and fuel-saving purposes, while governments can use the satellites to track illegal activities such as smuggling.

All passenger ships and most ocean-going vessels above a certain tonnage are required by law to be fitted with Automatic Identification Systems, enabling coastal stations and satellites with AIS receivers to track them. While AIS can be turned off on a vessel seeking to evade surveillance, Unseenlabs satellites pick up passive radio frequencies from radars and other electronic systems on a vessel.

The venture aims to launch six satellites in total throughout 2024 for a proposed constellation of 25 satellites. By the end of 2025, Galic said he expects to have around 20 satellites in the constellation, enough to enable a revisit time of around 30 minutes over the same area to broaden its services.

“These enhanced services would be particularly valuable for real-time environmental monitoring, rapid response to maritime disasters, and live tracking of pollutant emissions,” Galic said.

He declined to give more details about the company’s upcoming launch plans. In addition to SpaceX’s Falcon 9, Unseenlabs has launched satellites with Arianespace’s Vega rocket

Unseenlabs raised 20 million euros ($22 million) in 2021 to help expand its constellation in an increasingly competitive surveillance market.  

U.S.-based HawkEye 360 has a significant foothold in the sector, and late last year acquired Maxar’s radio frequency intelligence unit to bolster its capabilities.

British company Horizon Space Technologies also recently secured funding from the UK Space Agency to get launches for its radio-frequency-mapping maritime surveillance system back on track this year.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...