AAC Clyde Space, Saab and ORBCOMM announced plans, on 24 August, for a space-based VDES constellation. VDES (VHF Data Exchange System) is seen as the second-generation of maritime identification, building on the foundations laid out by AIS (Automatic Identification System) for the safety of maritime traffic. This will be coupled with ASM (Application Specific Messages and VDE (VHF Data Exchange) services, alongside improved modulation methods, to provide a maritime communications/identification product with both greater scope and better future-proofing than ordinary AIS.
The three companies have formed a consortium – with equal interests – to develop and market this new product. To this end, they have ordered a demonstration unit, planned to be launched in 2022. This demonstration will hopefully lead to a full LEO, VDES constellation.
AAC Clyde Space, with its experience in building CubeSat-class satellites, has been selected by the consortium to build the demo unit. The satellite will be based on its 3U-CubeSat platform. AAC Clyde has previously been commissioned by partner ORBCOMM to supply dedicated AIS satellites. Saab will be providing the VDES payload, while ORBCOMM will integrate the satellite into its established AIS-based product.