Saab, Orbcomm and AAC Clyde Space signed a contract for a new satellite that will use the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) for maritime communications.
They are planning to build and launch a nanosatellite into low Earth orbit (LEO) to test using VDES for communications, extending current coastal VDES into the oceans.
Saab expects a successful trial will lead to a new constellation of these small VDES satellites for global coverage.
Saab chief strategy officer Christian Hedelin said this investment will open new applications for data exchange and internet of things (IoT).
“This is a very exciting project where Saab is testing new technology in space, which we think will become the enabler of future secure communication services and applications,” he said.
This VDES package will enable safer, more sustainable and greener shipping with spin-off potential for other industries.
Satellite VDES will also be a new automatic vessel tracking standard augmenting existing networks, such as the automatic identification system (AIS). All ships in service with VDES can carry out two-way communications with each other across the globe, like a secure wireless internet for shipping, Saab said.
VDES will enable better vessel positioning and communications, with 32 times more bandwidth than AIS. It will facilitate better e-navigation due to its greater capabilities for transferring voyage data. VDES could also be used as a communications channel for data between an unmanned vessel and onshore control centre.
E-navigation and other solutions based on the VDES technology have the potential to deal with the growing global maritime traffic, leading to safer and more optimal traffic management, which will save a lot of fuel and emissions, said Mr Hedelin.
“With the deployment of this technology, we will also contribute to a more sustainable society,” he said.
AAC Clyde Space will manufacture the spacecraft, while Orbcomm will contribute its satellite operating, vessel tracking and IoT experience and Saab the VDES technology.
This project is co-funded by the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).
“The new LEO nanosatellites are part of what is now called new-space and this project is a good example of how industry can develop powerful and cost efficient space-based solutions,” said Mr Hedelin.
“Saab entering into this business with its technology is a significant opportunity for all involved.”
This initial project will test and develop these technologies in preparation of a future operational VDES satellite constellation with global coverage.
The VDES project will begin in October 2020, followed by the launch of the demonstration satellite in the middle of 2022. After this, commissioning, testing and demonstration will continue until Q1 2023.