The U.S. Coast Guard announced its intention to explore increased use of space as a tool to enhance awareness of activities in ports, coastal waters and their approaches.
The Coast Guard has been studying the feasibility of receiving maritime automatic identification system
(AIS) signals from space since 2001. In May 2004 the Coast Guard contracted with ORBCOMM, a satellite data communications company, to develop and build the capability to receive process and forward AIS signals from space via an AIS receiver onboard a communications satellite. In addition, ORBCOMM will provide the ground systems capable of processing the AIS signals and relaying the collected messages to the Coast Guard.
Studies conducted at Johns Hopkins University in 2003 indicated this concept was feasible, but it was not proven until a Dec. 16, 2006, launch by the Department of Defense of the TACSAT-2 satellite, which was equipped with an automatic identification receiver.
The Coast Guard's ORBCOMM satellite is scheduled to launch in the second quarter of 2007, and ORBCOMM has announced plans to include automatic identification system receivers in future communications satellites.
In another effort, the University of Miami's Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing, using a concept of operations developed by the Coast Guard, led a successful multi-organization experiment in late Sept. 2006 to develop and refine maritime domain awareness concepts and capabilities. Using seven civilian satellites, the Center was able to detect and track vessels transiting from the eastern Mediterranean to the coast of the United States.
Source: US Coast Guard