New system to increase safety and security in commercial shipping through better data exchange and communication between ship and shore entities
As part of Honeywell’s commitment to “The Power of Connected”, a consortium of British technology companies led by the Honeywell Aerospace office in the UK has been working on a low-cost space mission to demonstrate a new technology standard to improve critical two-way communication to ships at sea in-line with the United Nations’ Safety of Life at Sea Conventions. The goal is to develop a new messaging service aimed at providing vessels with up-to-date traffic services, such delivering the latest route-specific weather information, severe weather warning and ice maps to ships in polar regions.
This new two-way, point-to-point service – meaning satellite to ship and ship to satellite – will be aimed at supporting commercial fleet monitoring services such as real-time delivery of meteorological data as well as ship engine, emissions, fuel-level and other data to ship owners and operators. It will also enable security alerts around piracy to be sent to crew members.
To do this, the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities (IALA) e-NAV committee is developing a new communications standard called VDES, which stands for VHF Data Exchange System, a bi-directional ship communications concept, which consists of both a dedicated terrestrial and a satellite component.
Manifesting the VESTA Mission
Honeywell has been responsible for manifesting the VESTA mission. This has entailed the mission engineering, ground segment commissioning and procuring launch service for launch of a 3U CubeSat. Engineers with Honeywell have also provided overall project management, end-to-end system testing, validation of launch requirements and ensuring the adherence to regulatory requirements.
Surrey Satellite Technology, LTD (SSTL) developed the 3U CubeSat with grant funding from the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and matching funds from Honeywell and the participating technology partners, which include exactEarth Europe, Pole Star, TeamSurv, Satellite Applications Catapult, and the General Lighthouse Authority (GLA).
The 3U CubeSat is 3-axis stabilized using active magnetic alignment, a reaction wheel, and a fine sun sensor. It has deployable solar panels, a VHF antenna system, high-capacity Lithium ion batteries, on-board multi-channel GPS for orbital positioning and timing, and has S-band Telemetry, Tracking and Command (TT&C) transponders.
Reaching Sun-Synchronous Orbit
To reach sun-synchronous low Earth Orbit, Honeywell selected Spaceflight’s rideshare service. The VESTA 3U CubeSat will be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in late 2018.
According to Imtiaz Bahadur, project engineer with Honeywell Aerospace, the consortium selected Spaceflight’s service because they were looking for a low-cost launch provider with the experience, integrity and discipline to deliver a timely launch and who also could handle all of logistics around the launch campaign.
“We needed a service provider who could assist us with the integration as well as the regulatory clearances,” said Imtiaz. “Many other rideshare providers either don’t do this work or they charge extra money for this support.”
Imtiaz explained when the team with Honeywell Aerospace analyzed the various launch options around the world, they factored in the physical cost of taking the CubeSat into orbit, but also everything else that needed to go around it.
“We quickly concluded that a U.S. service provider would ultimately be the lowest cost provider for us. That’s how we ended up with Spaceflight. They were the best equipped to help us with the physical launch itself as well as all the paperwork and verification that is necessary. The total package offered by Spaceflight was a better value than anybody else out there.”
Extending Honeywell’s Commitment
Since 1958, Honeywell has been involved in some of the most significant space missions and projects. For instance, the company was a part of the mission to put man on the moon, in Vanguard American’s first successful earth satellite and many other projects. Today more than 80 percent of all satellites in orbit use Honeywell parts. And perhaps even more impressively, on every mission that Honeywell components have been used, they’ve had a success rate of 100 percent. There has been no failure within those missions due to its components. To achieve this success, Honeywell is committed to rigorous quality and process control and their engineers and managers pride themselves on developing first-rate components and products.
Honeywell hopes that VESTA is a stepping stone to the future of CubeSat programs to expand the constellation and add more satellites to the network so more data can be collected and shared.