The Iridium® NEXT constellation of communication satellites began launching in January 2017, carrying not only their important communications payloads, but also hosted payloads serving other missions as well. The satellites were designed with enough size, weight, and power capacity to accommodate these extra payloads, and Harris was selected as the hosted payload integrator responsible for coordinating, designing, and developing them.

One of those additional hosted payloads is a series of VHF maritime receivers for Harris’ partner, exactEarth, to extend their communications network.  Thirteen of these payloads have launched and an additional 47 are awaiting transport on future Iridium® NEXT launches.

The satellite-based maritime receiver collects automatic identification system (AIS) messages transmitted by commercial ships as they travel around the world. “What is unique about this capability is that we will have—for the first time—global, persistent, real-time coverage,” says Dave Mottarella, Harris’ Maritime Geospatial Solutions Senior Manager. “From every spot on the globe, at all times, we will be able to get a message from the ship to someone monitoring it in the world, within a minute.”

Learn more about Harris’ role in securing real-time, global ship tracking coverage.