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.

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.

Lockheed Martin has developed a satellite-based augmentation system that leverages both GPS and Europe’s Galileo

Lockheed Martin’s vice president of navigation systems, Andre Trotter said that the availability of a new GPS navigation signal for civilian users is creating market opportunities in so-called satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) that countries around the world are developing or upgrading to support transportation and other industries.

Six GPS 3 satellites that broadcast the L1C signal have been launched since 2018, the most recent one last week. GPS 3 is a modernized version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System satellites that broadcast positioning, navigation and timing signals. Compared to earlier generations, the GPS 3 satellites provide military users extra protection from jamming attacks but one of its most significant features is the L1C signal for civilian users that is interoperable with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites.

Lockheed Martin has built 10 GPS 3 satellites under a 2008 contract from the U.S. Air Force, and will produce at least 10 more GPS 3F, a more advanced version.

“The company developed what it calls a 2nd generation SBAS that takes advantage of both GPS L1/L5 and Galileo E1/E5 signals to provide more accurate navigation and positioning, and reduce dependence on any one system,” Trotter told SpaceNews.

Lockheed Martin in September won a $1.18 billion 19-year contract to develop and operate the Southern Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) for the governments of Australia and New Zealand. The system is expected to be operational by 2028. “There is a significant amount of testing that must go on in order for the signals to be certified for different types of use, whether that be safety-of-life or commercial aircraft operations,” Trotter said.

Lockheed Martin’s SBAS broadcasts on two frequencies to augment signals from GPS and Galileo. 

“We are currently broadcasting the dual-frequency multiple constellation SBAS signal as part of SouthPAN,” Trotter said. “As additional GPS 3 and GPS 3F satellites are launched, service will improve even further.”

Winning the SouthPAN contract “could lead to more opportunities, as we have the ability to expand this enabling technology globally,” he said. “We are having discussions with other potential international customers. We also expect that more benefits will be realized as we bring in users and learn about new applications of the technology.” 

The SouthPAN system, for example, will improve accuracy from the current 5 to 10 meters, to about 10 centimeters, he said. More precise navigation and positioning data, Trotter said, is in high demand for commercial aviation, precision agriculture, maritime tracking, and the operation of drones and unmanned vehicles.

The U.S. SBAS is known as the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Europe’s is called EGNOS, or European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. Several countries have implemented SBAS systems, including Japan and India, and more are in development. 

In the SouthPAN system, an SBAS payload is hosted on an Inmarsat geostationary Earth orbit communications satellite, which rebroadcasts the augmentation messages to user receivers. Lockheed Martin operates a tracking, telemetry and control ground station in Uralla, New South Wales. Spain-based GMV will develop SouthPAN’s data processing and control centers.

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An Ocean of Things. With the increasing digitization of the maritime industry, executives from cruise lines are slowly and carefully incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) applications in order to generate returns on investment. Meanwhile, satellite operators are trying to provide that connectivity at affordable rates that will help generate returns for cruise operators. Specifically, Carnival Cruises and Silversea are seeing the incorporation of IoT technology in customer experience-enhancing applications.

Carnival Vice President of Global Connectivity Reza Rasoulian has assembled differing levels of IoT technology and digitization offerings across his company’s fleet. He said that while improving the customer experience seems like a no-brainer decision, generating revenue from these services is a bit more complicated.

“The Return on Investment ROI for experience has been a bit fussy,” he said. “Connectivity is frankly, relatively easy to qualify and monetize. We have multiple Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) we can manage and show the benefits of investing in the space. With IoT on ships specifically, it’s a bit of a softer sell … in general, it still is a significant investment. The ROI and business case has to be there.” An Ocean of Things

Meanwhile, Silversea Director of IT Infrastructure Erick Hernandez is using connectivity to tailor personalized guest experiences onboard, especially when it comes to culinary decisions. “We’re able to give our passengers a new experience every time,” he said.

There’s no doubt that satellite bandwidth continues to be an expensive piece in the maritime IoT puzzle. But with the quality of the passenger experience on the line, it’s something that should be addressed. Rasoulian sees it as a matter of working with the industry to see what’s best. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’re eager to see what transpires.”

Others see an issue in the speed in which the maritime industry reacts to digitization. “The connectivity is there,” Iridium Maritime Vice President and Manager Wouter Deknopper told Rasoulian and others at the SATELLITE 2019 show, but “the pain point that we see is that there’s a slow reaction to the digitization. Older systems have interfaces, but they’re not standardized — all that makes it very challenging to come to a standardized solution. Standardization is something that we, as an industry, need to push forward.”

SES Networks Maritime Segment Vice President Greg Martin believes that things will “really kick off in the IoT world” within two to three years in the maritime space. “We have 5G efforts of standardization that are adding to that — edge computing is adding to that as well,” he said.

With all the talk of the speed and manner of connectivity, Iridium’s Deknopper discussed the company’s anti-ocean pollution initiatives. He first delved into the story of Iridium NEXT, which has been nearly a decade’s effort for the Virginia-based operator. “We have now over 1 million subscribers – we have over 600,000 IoT subscribers over land, maritime, and the government space.” An Ocean of Things

Deknkopper then highlighted another application to provide a return on investment: protecting the maritime environment.

“Plastic pollution is a terrible reality,” he said. “It floats over the oceans and can float for thousands of miles. Our partnership with The Ocean Cleanup is the first attempt to rid the ocean of plastic.” Considering plastic floats with the currents, he stressed how important it is to track these rogue pieces, as “it’s important to have connectivity where it goes.” The company has even created partnerships, so it can use buoys to measure the density of these plastics.

“Next year there will be a redesign and scale up to 60 systems,” Deknopper added. “A lot of these systems will be deployed to the big plastic patches.” The whole system “uses a lot of data but has proven really well to be working in these harsh conditions.”

Regardless of the different speeds of adoption, IoT is central to both the new offerings from service providers and satellite operators, as well as the business models of cruise line operators.