Tag Archive for: Maritime

The UK Space Agency is providing £1.2 million in funding to Horizon Technologies for the launch of a replacement satellite, Amber Phoenix, scheduled for mid-2024. Horizon Technologies lost its previous satellite, Amber IOD-3, when a Virgin Orbit LauncherOne rocket failed during a launch attempt in January. Amber Phoenix is a 6U cubesat designed to scan radio frequencies from ships seeking to evade detection. AAC Clyde Space is manufacturing the satellite, while the launch provider has not yet been confirmed. Horizon Technologies, which specializes in maritime surveillance, will provide the remaining funds for the satellite program.

The UK government’s funding for this satellite replacement project highlights the growing importance of satellite technology for national security and maritime surveillance. In an era of increasing global connectivity and data exchange, monitoring radio frequencies from ships and other sources has become a crucial tool for governments and agencies seeking to safeguard their national interests.

This development also showcases the value of satellite technology and cubesats in particular for security and defense applications. These small, cost-effective satellites are gaining more recognition as they provide flexible and accessible solutions for various space missions. The focus on replacing a lost satellite with a new and improved version underscores the resilience of space technology, where failures are often viewed as opportunities to learn and innovate.

he challenges Horizon Technologies faced with its initial satellite launch plans highlight the complexities and uncertainties associated with space missions. Factors such as pandemic-related delays, launch provider issues, and other logistical challenges can significantly impact the timing of satellite projects. This is especially true for smaller companies and startups entering the space industry.

The grant from the UK Space Agency, in this case, has played a crucial role in allowing Horizon Technologies to overcome these hurdles and continue its expansion into space-based services. As space technologies become increasingly important for national security, surveillance, and other applications, such funding and support from government agencies can make a significant difference for private enterprises.

Horizon Technologies’ decision to replace the lost Amber IOD-3 satellite underscores the strategic importance of maintaining and enhancing space assets. These assets play a vital role in modern surveillance, telecommunications, and environmental monitoring, making it essential to have contingency plans and resources to address any potential setbacks.

Horizon Technologies’ ambitious plans for its Amber constellation demonstrate the increasing role of small satellites in addressing security and surveillance challenges. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Enhanced Maritime Security: The Amber constellation is designed to enhance maritime security by providing real-time radio frequency (RF) data. This can help detect illegal activities such as piracy, smuggling, and other threats to maritime security. The UK. Royal Navy’s involvement highlights the potential of space-based solutions in addressing security concerns in a broader context.
  2. Global Coverage and Rapid Data: With plans to deploy over 20 Amber payloads in low Earth orbit, Horizon aims to offer worldwide RF data with a latency of just 30 minutes. This near-real-time data can significantly improve the ability to respond to security threats and challenges in the maritime domain.
  3. Government and Commercial Opportunities: Horizon Technologies intends to market its space-based detection services to other governments and commercial customers. This highlights the commercial potential of satellite-based solutions for addressing security and surveillance needs.
  4. Synergy with Earth Observation and SAR Constellations: Integrating RF-tracking payloads into partner Earth observation and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) constellations is a strategic move. It allows for more comprehensive data collection by leveraging existing constellations to capture additional information in areas identified as interesting by RF payloads.
  5. Collaboration with Earth Observation and SAR Companies: Horizon Technologies is actively collaborating with Earth observation and SAR companies to integrate RF-tracking capabilities into their upcoming satellite launches. This collaborative approach expands the network and capabilities of the Amber constellation.

Overall, Horizon’s vision for the Amber constellation demonstrates the growing importance of small satellites and their potential to address a wide range of security and surveillance challenges. It also highlights the synergy between space-based solutions and existing Earth observation and SAR constellations, underscoring the importance of integrated data for comprehensive situational awareness.

The Spaceport Company, a startup focused on developing floating launch pads for space rockets, is among the 17 companies selected to receive funding from the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) program. Administered by the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), the NSIC program has allocated $35 million in funding for 2023 to support early-stage companies from various technology sectors.

The NSIC program was established in response to concerns that U.S. startups working on technologies with national security implications were facing challenges in securing capital from trusted domestic sources. As a result, some of these startups were turning to foreign investors, potentially risking the loss of their intellectual property to adversaries.

By providing funding and support to early-stage companies, the NSIC program aims to address these challenges and foster the development of cutting-edge technologies in the United States, while also safeguarding national security interests.

The inclusion of The Spaceport Company in the NSIC program indicates the government’s interest in supporting innovative space-related ventures and enhancing the domestic space industry’s capabilities.

The Spaceport Company’s recent prototype demonstration of a sea-based launch platform in the Gulf of Mexico has caught the attention of the Department of Defense (DoD). As a result, the company has been selected as one of the recipients of funding under the National Security Innovation Capital (NSIC) program.

The NSIC funding will support the “design and development of its first full platform for sea-based rocket launches.” The DoD sees mobile launch pads that can operate at sea as a potential solution to the increasing congestion at major launch sites. By utilizing sea-based launch platforms, companies like The Spaceport Company can enable more rocket launches in diverse locations without posing environmental risks to populated areas or shore-based assets.

The NSIC program has been actively providing funding to various ventures in the space industry, aiming to support innovative technologies and services with national security applications. Notably, previous NSIC funding recipients include Xplore, a space infrastructure services startup, Starfish Space, a satellite-servicing company, and Nuview, an Earth observation startup.

OneWeb, the British operator of a low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband network, has launched a free trial offer for maritime customers. The company recently expanded its network coverage to include a larger portion of the northern hemisphere, now reaching down to 35 degrees latitude. This expansion enables coverage across Europe and the upper United States. OneWeb’s network has 634 satellites in LEO, and it is currently in the process of finalizing the necessary ground stations for global coverage, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The “try before you buy” deal for maritime customers lasts for 45 days and is facilitated through OneWeb’s network of distribution partners. The financial costs for OneWeb’s enterprise-grade maritime services, which promise speeds of at least 100 megabits per second (Mbps), have not been disclosed.

In comparison, SpaceX’s Starlink LEO constellation, another provider of global connectivity, offers maritime services starting at $250 per month. Starlink advertises download speeds of up to 220 Mbps and requires a one-time hardware fee of $2,500, which includes an antenna built in-house.

Kymeta, based in the United States, and Intellian, based in South Korea, are the providers of antennas for OneWeb’s maritime services. These antennas will enable connectivity for maritime customers using OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband network.

In addition to the maritime service announcement, OneWeb also revealed its plans to expand its distribution partnership with Hughes Network Systems. Hughes, an investor in OneWeb through its parent company EchoStar, will provide global inflight connectivity (IFC) services to airlines once OneWeb’s LEO services are available next year. Hughes has developed an electronically steered antenna specifically designed for the partnership, allowing aircraft to connect to both LEO and geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites.

Depending on the specific requirements of airlines, the partnership aims to offer a choice between a LEO-only solution or a hybrid service that combines both LEO and GEO connectivity.

OneWeb’s range of services extends beyond maritime and inflight connectivity. They also offer fixed and mobile land-based connectivity services for enterprises and governments.

Hughes, in addition to its involvement in providing inflight connectivity, has played a significant role in engineering OneWeb’s gateways. As a distribution partner, Hughes is responsible for distributing OneWeb’s fixed satellite services in the United States and India. Furthermore, Hughes distributes OneWeb’s connectivity solutions to the U.S. Department of Defense, catering to their specific communication needs.

BlackSky & Spire Global have joined forces to offer a new global monitoring service that utilizes satellite technology to track ships. This service called the “maritime custody service” leverages radio frequency emissions to automatically task satellite imagery, detect and classify vessels, and provide continuous monitoring of maritime activities.

Spire Global’s radio-frequency monitoring satellites play a key role in detecting emissions from ships and identifying dark vessels that manipulate their reported positions to engage in suspicious activities. By analyzing radio-frequency data, the system can identify vessels that may be involved in illicit behavior. This information is then used to tip BlackSky’s satellites to collect relevant imagery of the identified vessels.

BlackSky’s Spectra AI platform, which operates in the cloud, uses artificial intelligence to analyze the electro-optical images captured by the satellites. The AI algorithms are designed to detect vessels, estimate cargo, and monitor changes over time. Additionally, the maritime tracking service incorporates synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data from third-party satellites to complement the visible imagery. SAR technology is capable of penetrating clouds and darkness, providing valuable insights even in challenging weather conditions.

Spire’s satellites are responsible for tracking vessels emitting automatic identification system (AIS) data, as well as detecting spoofed AIS signals and other very high frequency (VHF) signals. By monitoring these signals, the system can enhance its understanding of vessel movements and potentially identify any suspicious activities.

By combining the capabilities of radio-frequency monitoring, electro-optical imagery analysis, and SAR technology, the maritime custody service offered by BlackSky & Spire Global provides comprehensive monitoring and tracking of ships worldwide. This service has the potential to support various applications, such as maritime security, anti-piracy efforts, and environmental monitoring in oceans and seas.

BlackSky & Spire Global’s maritime custody service offers the capability to track approximately 270,000 vessels worldwide, whether they are in open water, rivers, and canals, or docked at ports. This extensive monitoring ability is crucial for various purposes such as national security, detecting illicit ship-to-ship transfers, combating smuggling and sanctions evasion, and monitoring illegal fishing activities in restricted areas.

Iain Goodridge, Senior Director of Radio Frequency Geolocation Products at Spire, emphasized the importance of identifying, locating, and continuously monitoring ships, particularly those that manipulate their reported location. Dark shipping activity has significant impacts on the global economy, the environment, and people’s safety, making it vital to have robust tracking capabilities.

The data obtained through the service has multiple applications, including the ability to anticipate the consequences of port congestion and shipping delays on global and regional supply chains. By analyzing the insights provided by the monitoring service, stakeholders can make informed decisions to mitigate potential disruptions and optimize logistical operations.

Patrick O’Neil, Chief Innovation Officer at BlackSky, highlighted the service’s focus on delivering timely insights with minimal latency throughout the entire process, from tasking and collection to processing, exploitation, and dissemination. This ensures that the information is provided efficiently, enabling users to act promptly based on the received intelligence.