The ESAIL satellite was launched September 3rd onboard the Arianespace Vega (VV16) flight, from Europe’s spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.
The satellite will undergo commissioning testing over the next few months and then will be brought into service to provide high-performance vessel detection and tracking capability as part of exactEarth’s global constellation of more than 70 automatic identification system (AIS) satellites providing real time monitoring of the global shipping fleet.
VV16 is Arianespace’s first Vega Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS) rideshare flight that injected a total of 53 satellites into orbit. At approximately 52 minutes after launch, ESAIL was released into a sun-synchronous orbit with Local Time at Descending Node (LTDN) of 10:30 am at an altitude of 515 km.
ESAIL is a high-performance microsatellite, built by LuxSpace with the support of the Luxembourg Space Agency under an ESA Partnership Project with exactEarth and the support of the Canadian Space Agency. It will track ships worldwide by detecting messages that ships radio-broadcast via AIS.
As part of exactEarth’s Satellite-AIS constellation, ESAIL will provide AIS data for the monitoring of maritime traffic on a global basis. It will improve fishery monitoring, fleet management, environmental protection, and security monitoring.
The first contact with the ESAIL satellite was successfully made by the ESAIL project team within hours after launch. The project team, consisting of team members from exactEarth, LuxSpace and the European Space Agency have gained control of the satellite, which is in good health.
In the coming days and weeks, the satellite will undergo commissioning and in-orbit testing prior to being put into service as part of exactEarth’s Satellite-AIS constellation. The ESAIL satellite is designed for a mission life of approximately four years.