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Saab, OrbComm and AAC Clyde Space to develop VDES satellite constellation

Swedish company Saab along with ORBCOMM and AAC Clyde Space have announced a new project to develop space-based communication for the maritime sector via the new automatic tracking standard, VHF Data Exchange System (VDES).  

The purpose with the project is to test and develop new technology in preparation of a future operational VDES satellite constellation with global coverage. The VDES project is expected to begin in October 2020, with the launch of the demonstration satellite in mid-2022, followed by in-orbit demonstration and testing, which will end in the first quarter of 2023.

The space-based infrastructure will increase VDES range from the shoreline to anywhere in the world, converting what is currently a predominantly coastal system into a global maritime system.  For the first time, all ships in service with VDES can carry out two-way communication with each other across the globe, like a secure wireless internet for shipping.

The VDES has up to 32 times more bandwidth compared to AIS. The system will transmit small data packages between satellites, ships and shore, which will facilitate the maritime transport systems. Furthermore, AIS can be used as before since the system boasts full backward compatibility. The VDES system will not only provide the opportunity for positioning and communication (as the AIS system does) but also serve as an enabler for e-navigation and autonomous shipping. The technology may even be applicable for other usage as for example IoT communication between owner and cargo, transported both at sea and on land.

“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,” said Christian Hedelin, chief strategy officer at Saab.

E-navigation and other solutions based on the VDES technology have the potential to deal with the growing global maritime traffic. This will lead to safer and more optimal traffic management, helping to cut fuel consumption and emissions.

The consortium running the space project consists of Saab, ORBCOMM a global provider of IoT and AAC Clyde Space a manufacturer of spacecraft. The project, to place a VDES nanosatellite in LEO, is co-funded by the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket).

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