As the new ISS circles Earth, it has begun tracking individual ships crossing the seas beneath. An experiment hosted by ESA's Columbus module is testing the viability of monitoring global traffic from the Station's orbit hundreds of kilometres up. The ship-detection system under test is based around the Automatic Identification System (AIS), the marine equivalent of the air traffic control system.
All international vessels, cargo ships above certain weights and passenger carriers of all sizes must carry ‘Class A’ AIS transponders, broadcasting continually updated identification and navigation data.
AIS allows port authorities and coastguards to track seagoing traffic, but the system relies on VHF radio signals with a horizontal range of just 40 nautical miles (74 km). This makes it useful within coastal zones and on a ship-to-ship basis but open ocean traffic remains largely untracked. However, AIS signals travel much further vertically – all the way up to the International Space Station.
Perhaps there really is a chance for the sailor to monitor shipping
in his area in the not too distant future. How many subscribers would it take to provide a dedicated satellite
system capable of transmitting text messages, weather
and basic AIS data to the vessels (subscribers) below it.
Come on, you retired millionaires, there money
to be made here!!!
more on:- ESA Portal - Space Station keeps watch on worldâ€™s sea traffic