NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 (NanoRacks-AAUSat5) - 11.22.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Most ships traveling the world’s oceans use the Automatic Identification System (AIS) to share information with other ships and the shore. The NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 investigation uses a student-designed and constructed AIS receiver to track ship signals with a small satellite launched from the International Space Station (ISS). Results validate the software and hardware for a space-based AIS system, and inspire Danish students to develop a deeper connection to the space program.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by AAUSAT5 Student Team, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
AAUSAT5 Student Team , Aalborg University , Aalborg, Denmark

Amalie Vistoft Petersen , Aalborg University , Denmark

Aalborg University, AAlborg, Denmark

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2015 - March 2016

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • The major goal of NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 is to test the student designed and built Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver. The investigation also verifies operation of the student built satellite, running the AIS experiments and downloading AIS telegrams, downloading AIS science data and raw AIS measurements from the AIS SDR receiver as well as collecting and analyzing telemetry from all subsystems.
  • NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 also tests the AAUSAT open source communication protocol, Cubesat Space Protocol (CSP).
  • NanoRacks-AAUSAT5, including all subsystems, is 100% designed, constructed, built and assembled by engineering students with no use of commercial off-the shelf (COTS) subsystems.
  • NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 is part of outreach targeted to K-12 and especially high schools for recruitment of new engineering students.


The primary mission of NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 is to conduct a feasibility study on the student developed Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver. It enables testing of AIS algorithms and compares the performance of NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 in International Space Station (ISS) altitude and previous results from AAUSAT3 in an 800 km height polar orbit. In addition, students develop all of the satellite subsystems, and this mission is a part of the validation procedure.
The NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 AIS receiver carries out advanced local decoding as well as the possibility to download raw AIS samples and furthermore supports upload of new decoding firmware during the mission. Receiving AIS signals from a low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite has some built in problems: long distance, extensive Doppler shift and large antenna footprint. The NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 AIS receiver is based on high-speed sampling (700-1000 kHz) on a down conversion of the 9600 baud AIS telemetry signal embedded on a 162 MHz carrier. Decoding algorithms can be uploaded during the mission. The AIS sampling is based on a BF537 DSP running Linux. It can run close to or even real time.
NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 also tests the AAUSAT open source communication protocol, Cubesat Space Protocol (CSP). CSP supports forward error corrective codes on space link, which ensure high connectivity. NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 is based on an autonomous decentralized design where all nodes, including ground, are “just” equal nodes on the CSP network. The mission carries out further tests for future optimization and development. Ground infrastructure is based on Aalborg University (AAU) Student Space open source pyxis network and BlueBox TNC, all designed and developed by students.
Tracking ships and other vehicles carrying an AIS transponder is of high interest these days. Increase accessibility of the sea around Greenland enables attractive shipping lanes, and among others the Danish Maritime Authorities want to increase safety at sea in these areas. Furthermore, due to the nature of the launch opportunity to have the satellite launched from the ISS by a Danish astronaut, a secondary goal of NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 is to increase the public interest for space amongst the Danish population.

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Space Applications
Students at Denmark’s Aalborg University designed the satellite and its software, which monitor ships carrying AIS transponders. Tracking ships from space allows a global view of maritime traffic that cannot be obtained from the ground. The first Danish astronaut, Andreas Mogensen is scheduled to be on board the International Space Station during deployment, sparking renewed interest in space exploration among the Danish public.

Earth Applications
Students at Aalborg University in Denmark designed a new space-based AIS system, which improves ship monitoring in remote ocean areas where no ground stations are able to receive AIS signals. Expanded AIS coverage opens access to new shipping lanes, including in the seas around Greenland, and enables the Danish Maritime Authority to improve safety on the seas. In addition, students who designed the satellite systems develop a connection to the space program, preparing them for future careers.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

The satellite should be able to receive AIS from ships, and be able to transmit the AIS signals to the ground stations on earth.

NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the ISS already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD). A crew member transfers the NRCSDs, pre-assembled in groups of 4, from the launch vehicle to the JEM. Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD quad-pack is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSD quad-packs are unpacked, mounted on the JAXA Multi-Purpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) and placed on the JEM airlock slide table for transfer outside the ISS. A crew member operates the JEM Remote Manipulating System (JRMS) – to grapple and position for deployment. CubeSats are deployed when JAXA ground controllers command a specific NRCSD.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites

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NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 ready for integration into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer. Image courtesy of AAU Student Space.

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NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 instrumented with sensors for thermal vacuum test at European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC). Image courtesy of AAU Student Space.

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NanoRacks-AAUSAT5 in transport flight case. Three other CubeSats from AAU have travelled in the same flight case. Image courtesy of AAU Student Space.

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