WNISAT-1 is a 10kg (22lbs) micro-satellite for monitoring sea ice in the Arctic Sea. With cameras with spectral bands of blue, green, red and near infrared installed onboard the satellite, WNISAT-1 will perform frequent assessment of the conditions of icebergs. The dedicated satellite for this purpose will greatly contribute to the safe voyage of vessels sailing through the Arctic Sea.
Ice in the Arctic Sea has been receding progressively every summer as a result of global climate changes. These changes have conveniently allowed commercial vessels to transit this area in summer, which is normally blocked by pack ice. This emerging route is called “Northern Sea Route,” and is attracting much interest from shipping companies. For example, the route allows a vessel sailing from Europe to Asia to complete the voyage in two-thirds the distance of a typical route via the Suez Canal, and half the time of a route via the Cape of Good Hope. It is said that widespread adoption of this alternate trade route by the logistics industry will drastically reduce the time, fuel and environmental impact of global shipping traffic in the near future.
Severe environment in the Arctic Sea makes it extremely difficult to monitor the area only from the ground. Therefore, earth observation satellites take charge of this mission in most cases.
Earth observation satellites normally take pictures in accordance with the requests from customers. Thus the submission of frequent mission requests is inevitable to secure images in the Arctic Sea. A mission request however, usually costs a lot (tens of thousands of dollars per request in some cases) because it means an exclusive use of the satellite for some period of time. Although archive images are less expensive, they become available irregularly, and it takes much longer time from shooting to delivery.
This situation motivated Weathernews to possess their own micro-satellite for the dedicated mission to monitor the Arctic Sea. By introducing this single mission satellite, they will be able to secure frequent shootings and benefit from fresh images without any negotiation with others. Those data will greatly contribute to the improvement of the simulation accuracy of sea-ice distribution, which will enable them to frequently deliver more accurate safety information to vessels.
It is said that more than $100K of money can be saved per voyage by using Northern Sea Route in the case of Japan-Europe shipping route. Although this route is available only in summer, its usefulness will induce thousands of ships to pass through in the near future. Using a traditional large satellite here is an utter nonsense in terms of business, as it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars. On the other hand a micro-satellite, which is available with the cost of just 1% of a large satellite, will pay for itself soon even with launch and operation cost.
We interviewed Dr. Masaya Yamamoto, the satellite project manager at Weathernews, about the feasibility of business using WNISAT-1. Please refer to this article as well.
|Dimensions||270 × 270 × 270 mm
(No protrusions included)
|Communication||Uplink: UHF 9.6kbps
Downlink: UHF 38.4kbps
|Attitude Control||Three-axis control (Nadir pointing with 0.1° accuracy)|
WNISAT-1 is equipped with optical cameras to monitor sea ice. The required ground resolution was as low as 500m, and we pursued very low cost by composing them of lens modules and image sensors distributed for terrestrial applications. We confirmed the tolerance against space environment through various environmental tests. The camera for near-infrared band will be used to distinguish clouds from ice, both of which look the same in the visible wavelength.
|Spectral Bands||Blue (440-500nm)
Near Infrared (750-1000nm)
|Capture Area||500km x 500km|
WNISAT-1 is equipped with a laser module for conducting a secondary experimental mission. The module consists of two different lasers: the energy of one of the lasers is absorbed by CO2 in the atmosphere, while that of the other is not. By measuring two lights on the ground and comparing their signal intensity, we can estimate the density of CO2 in the atmosphere. Although those data are not accurate enough to be analyzed scientifically, they will encourage general public to have interest in satellite and climate change.
|Launch Date||November 21, 2013|
|Launch Site||Yasny Launch Base, Russia|
|Orbit||Sun-synchronous, 600km altitude, 10:30 LTDN|