3. September 2020
German medium-sized companies supply core components for 'Triton'

ESAIL mi­crosatel­lite launched with new satel­lite plat­form

Lift-off of the Vega launch vehicle from the European spaceport in French Guiana
Lift-off of the Ve­ga launch ve­hi­cle from the Eu­ro­pean space­port in French Guiana
Image 1/3, Credit: ESA/CNES/Arianespace

Lift-off of the Vega launch vehicle from the European spaceport in French Guiana

A Ve­ga launch ve­hi­cle lift­ed off from the Eu­ro­pean space­port in French Guiana at 03:51 CEST on 3 Septem­ber 2020 with the ESAIL mi­crosatel­lite on board. ESAIL is the first satel­lite in ESA’s SAT-AIS pro­gramme for the glob­al mon­i­tor­ing of mar­itime traf­fic.
Artist's impression of the ESAIL satellite in orbit
Artist's im­pres­sion of the ESAIL satel­lite in or­bit
Image 2/3, Credit: ESA / P.Carril

Artist's impression of the ESAIL satellite in orbit

The ESAIL mi­crosatel­lite will mon­i­tor mar­itime traf­fic from space. This en­ables the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of ships world­wide and the de­ter­mi­na­tion of their ex­act po­si­tions. The satel­lite is based on the new, flex­i­ble 'Tri­ton' plat­form, to which small and medi­um-sized com­pa­nies in Ger­many have made ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions dur­ing de­vel­op­ment and con­struc­tion.
ESAIL before transport to Kourou
ESAIL be­fore trans­port to Kourou
Image 3/3, Credit: LuxSpace S.à.r.l.

ESAIL before transport to Kourou

The com­plet­ed ESAIL satel­lite, mount­ed on the floor of its trans­port con­tain­er, awaits its jour­ney to Kourou.
  • The ESAIL microsatellite was launched on 3 September 2020 from the European spaceport in French Guiana.
  • ESAIL is the first satellite in ESA's SAT-AIS programme to monitor global shipping traffic.
  • Small and medium-sized German companies supplied core components for the new 'Triton' satellite platform.
  • Focus: Space Administration, transport

The commercial microsatellite ESAIL, which uses a newly developed satellite platform, was carried into orbit from the European spaceport in Kourou on 3 September at 03:51 CEST on board a Vega launch vehicle. The development of the first satellite in the European Space Agency's (ESA) SAT-AIS programme was financed by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) with funds from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie; BMWi). ESAIL's task will be to determine the location of ships and monitor global maritime traffic.

Core components for the new platform come from Germany

ESAIL will orbit Earth for around five years at an altitude of approximately 515 kilometres. With an edge length of only 60 centimetres and a weight of around 110 kilograms, the cube-shaped satellite is classified as a microsatellite. The international market for these small satellites is growing because they can be used for a wide variety of tasks in low Earth orbit. Their range of tasks includes Earth observation, data relay services for the Internet of Things, and technology testing.

"What is special about ESAIL is the new, flexible satellite platform named Triton," explains Marc Hofmann, who is responsible for ESAIL at the DLR Space Administration. "Small and medium-sized German companies developed core components for it." In the past, satellites were custom-made for every application, which required a great deal of time and money. Flexible platforms are increasingly being developed and used to save time and costs during manufacture. "These platforms can now be bought almost 'off the shelf', with only minor adjustments being required," says Hofmann.

Accurate positioning will increase safety for maritime traffic

From space, ESAIL will observe ships that are fitted with Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking equipment. With the help of this satellite-based system (SAT-AIS), ships can be identified worldwide and their exact position determined. AIS data are important for avoiding collisions between ships, monitoring routes, and fighting environmental crime. ESAIL will complement the satellite fleet of the Canadian company exactEarth, which provides positioning and information services to the maritime sector.

Medium-sized companies in Germany made an important contribution to ESAIL

ESAIL was developed under the SAT-AIS programme as part of ESA's Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) programme. ESAIL was constructed by the Luxembourg-based company LuxSpace, which is a subsidiary of the Bremen-based space group OHB SE. Core components of the 'Triton' platform were developed by German small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The data transmission system for the satellite payload was supplied by STT-SystemTechnik GmbH in Munich. Parts of the attitude control system were manufactured by Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH in Berlin and ZARM Technik AG in Bremen. The German contribution to the SAT-AIS programme therefore benefits medium-sized companies. Through its contributions to ESA programmes, the DLR Space Administration promotes the development of new, flexible satellite platforms for use in low Earth orbit.

Contact
  • Fabian Walker
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Strat­e­gy and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
    Telephone: +49 228 447-124
    Fax: +49 228 447-386
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact
  • Marc Hofmann
    Ger­man Aerospace Cen­ter (DLR)
    Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion
    Satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tion
    Telephone: +49 228 447-772
    Königswinterer Straße 522-524
    53227 Bonn
    Contact

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