Numbers Game: Why 65 Satellites is Just Right for exactView RT

Posted by Philip Miller on Aug 2, 2016 11:14:41 AM

exactViewRT powered by Harris will have 65 payloads onboard the Iridium NEXT constellation of satellites. After launch, each satellite is moved into its pre-assigned position relative to the other satellites.  Once there, this position is maintained throughout the life of the constellation by using fuel on each satellite to make course corrections known as “station keeping”. In other words, not all orbits around the earth are equal and knowing which orbits to put your satellites in and how to keep them where you put them is fundamentally critical to providing a satellite based service.  It truly is all about “Orbital Mechanics”.

The building of the Iridium NEXT constellation has been ongoing for years. exactViewRT was not an original part of the constellation.  As a result, the first satellites coming off of the production line do not have our maritime payload incorporated into them. While adding the payload after the satellite is complete is possible, it is expensive and would cause unacceptable delays to the program. 

Working with Iridium, however, Harris and exactEarth have been able to ensure that the maritime payloads are placed into the controlled orbit positions which optimize maritime coverage. Since our payload uses two types of advanced antennas and because they are placed in optimized orbit positions, the maritime coverage is globally constant and redundant (i.e. multiple satellites are always covering all parts of the earth’s surface). In other words, exactViewRT has all the satellites it needs to maintain constant, persistent real-time coverage for the life of the Iridium NEXT constellation.

Suffice it say that more satellites is not always better.   Launching many satellites does not automatically equate to a better service. The launch of large numbers of satellites may cover up the fact that the operator has little or no control over the orbit the satellites are in and also that whatever orbit they do get into, they don’t stay there. As a result, the coverage they provide changes from day to day, month to month and year to year as the satellites drift.  Their maritime coverage is inconsistent and changes constantly because they are not in controlled orbits.

Launching and operating satellites is about Orbital Mechanics. To provide constant, persistent real-time global coverage for maritime services you need to understand it and design your constellation appropriately.  Fortunately, Iridium, Harris and exactEarth understand it well.  For truly accurate reporting of where ships are and where they have been, you need a service that you can count on.  exactViewRT powered by Harris will provide the same constant, persistent real-time global coverage throughout its entire lifetime.

For more information on why an optimised satellite constellation matters for real-time maritime coverage, download our technology whitepaper




Topics: real-time vessel tracking, exactView RT

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