Polish Consortium Will Construct a Commercial Satellite

SAT-AIS-PL is going to become the first satellite, the development of which is going to be conducted by a Polish scientific-industrial consortium. The consortium in question will be led by the Creotech Instruments S.A. company, and besides that, it is going to include the following entities: Hertz Systems, Atos Polska, Silesian Science and Technology Centre of Aviation Industry Ltd., along with the following research institutes: Polish Academy of Sciences Space Research Centre, National Institute of Telecommunications and Gdynia Maritime University. SAT-AIS-PL is going to become a part of the maritime traffic safety assurance system.

The project is being realized as a result of an order which has been placed by the European Space Agency. Poland has been a member of that organization since 2012 now. The initiative will last for at least seven years and it is going to be realized in four, separate stages. The initial phase, which has just begun, will last until the first quarter of 2017. It includes creation of the mission design and subsystems architecture, for the newly developed satellite. Within the period between 2017 and 2020, during the second stage, a prototype of the system, along a prototype the satellite itself are both going to be created. The next phase is related to launching of the launch vehicle, throughout which it is expected to that the said satellite would be sent into the orbit. The last stage – a couple of years after the launch – is the operational phase for the system. It will also include bringing the satellite from the orbit, once its mission is completed.

The task placed in front of the SAT-AIS-PL system is to collect the information from the AIS system used for identification of the vessels involved in the marine traffic”, as it was indicated by Michał Szaniawski, Vice-President for the Industrial Development Agency JSC - “The data provided by the satellite is going to be used both by the Polish, as well as by the foreign users. Maritime Offices, Polish Army, Border Guard, Maritime SAR Services, Special Services and European Maritime Safety Agency are going to be the main recipients of the data provided by the satellite.”

Tasks for the Polish Companies and Infrastructure for Poland

SAT-AIS-PL system is going to consist out of a 40 kg satellite with AIS transponder signals receiver, ground communications station, flight control and satellite control centre, along with an AIS data terminal, through which the AIS information is going to be shared with the end users. All of the elements of the said system infrastructure will be located within the territory of Poland.

SAT-AIS-PL is going to become the first satellite, the development of which is going to be conducted by a Polish scientific-industrial consortium. The previously developed Polish satellites include: PW-SAT, LEM and HEWELIUSZ, however, they have been created by research institutes. PW-SAT has been created by the students of the Warsaw University of Technology, while the Polish Academy of Sciences Space Research Centre was responsible for creating the LEM and HEWELIUSZ satellites. The purpose of the above satellites did not go outside the boundaries of the fields of science and orbital testing of new technologies. SAT-AIS-PL is going to be an utility satellite. Construction of that system, along with the whole ground infrastructure, is significantly more complex and time-consuming. We are proud of the fact that we have a chance of carrying out this project in a close collaboration with the Polish entities, both industrial, as well as scientific ones.

President of the Creotech Instruments S.A. company, Grzegorz Brona.

Works on the system have been initiated back in 2014. It all began with an initial feasibility study (within the POL-SAT-AIS project) ordered by the European Space Agency from a consortium, consisting of the National Institute of Communications (leader), Gdynia Maritime University and Polish Academy of Sciences Space Research Centre, as a part of the Polish Industry Incentive Scheme. The study has achieved ESA’s approval, and it was also accepted by the Inter-sector Team dealing with the Space Policy in Poland. Both entities have made a joint decision to initiate the next stage of the initiative, SAT-AIS-PL, delegating the works to an industrial-scientific consortium led by the Creotech Instruments S.A. company since February 2015. Creotech Instruments S.A. company is based in Piaseczno, near Warsaw.

Automatic Identification System is a close range system used to track the ship movements and prevent the potential collisions of the maritime vessels. The system was developed in order to identify and deliver the data pertaining the current positioning of the vessels and coastal stations. AIS transponders automatically transmit the said information, in regular intervals. Identification and the navigational data are sent each 2 to 180 seconds, depending on the ship’s activities. AIS signals are being received by devices installed on other ships or coastal stations. AIS system is a mandatory suite which shall be installed on any vessel with displacement exceeding 300 tonnes, operating within the international waters, cargo vessels operating within the local waters, with displacement exceeding 500 tonnes, and all of the passenger ships.

Horizontal range of the AIS system is defined as 40 nautical miles, meaning that a ship located farther away from the transmitter will not be able to receive signals from another ship or coastal stations. This is a result of the fact that the Earth is a sphere, while the power of the transmitters and sensitivity of the receivers are both quite limited. Using the satellites makes it possible to aggregate the AIS data for the vessels staying outside the range of the coastal AIS sites, and to transmit that data to the recipients. This significantly increases the maritime traffic safety.

Krzysztof Żurek, National Institute of Telecommunications

International Maritime Organization supervises the operational activities of the vessels using the AIS system, while the European Maritime Safety Agency realizes the aforementioned tasks within the European seas. On a domestic level, these tasks are being realized by the Maritime Offices located in Gdynia, Słupsk and Szczecin.

Polish SAT-AIS-PL satellite will join several other satellites which are operating in the outer space and which are tasked with transmission of the AIS signals.