NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 (NanoRacks-LEMUR-2) - 01.16.19

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

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 consists of a constellation of remote sensing satellites. These deploy from the International Space Station (ISS) as well as the visiting space vehicle to conduct tests at a range of altitude bands. Functions for these satellites include weather monitoring, aviation, and global maritime tracking.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

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


Principal Investigator(s)
Jenny Barna, Spire Global, Inc., San Francisco, CA, United States

Information Pending

Spire Global, Inc., San Francisco, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Earth Benefits

ISS Expedition Duration
March 2016 - April 2017; February 2018 - October 2018

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Spire, previously Nanosatisfi, launched 3 cubesats from the ISS: Ardusat-1, Ardusat-2 and Ardusat-X. In addition, 5 3U cubesats were placed into orbit; LEMUR-1 was launched on a Dnepr in June 2014 and 4 LEMUR-2 satellites were launched on a PSLV in September 2015.

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 tests a constellation of satellites made to monitor weather and track ships and aircraft on Earth.
  • The many small satellites provide close to real time information from anywhere on Earth.
  • These satellites increase safety and security across the planet’s oceans.
  • Satellites deploy from the International Space station (ISS) and the visiting vehicle; this allows testing at a range of altitude bands.
  • This investigation aims to track ships from space, solving the issue of ships travelling long distances and not being readily trackable due to the Earth’s curvature.
  • Similarly, this investigation aims to track aircraft with actual location data rather than computer models currently used to predict the location in certain dead zones.
  • From a weather approach, NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 may provide weather data regardless of altitude and geolocation. This is especially crucial for zones that may not count with weather stations or weather balloons.


NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 is designed to predict weather and to track ships and airplanes from space. Today, tracking of oceangoing ships is of limited use. The tracking information is gathered and delivered very infrequently to those that need it, making it useful almost exclusively for historical understanding. The information loses its value ‘in the moment’ for real applications for both the public and private sectors, an issue given that 90% of global trade transits over the ocean. Tracking of ships over the deep ocean is simply not possible using stations on the ground. The curvature of the Earth blocks their signal from reaching land-based stations. Without satellite-based tracking, a ship essentially disappears the moment it’s more than 50 nautical miles from port. With more than 90% of global trade transiting the ocean, tracking is critical to world’s supply chains.
Weather is a truly global system. Satellites offer the only means to measure the entire global weather system in a reliable, consistent, and cost efficient manner. The total number of satellites in orbit that are providing weather data today is diminishing due to age and other factors resulting in weather forecasts across the globe that are often inaccurate, unreliable, or only meaningful in the short term. Weather affects every single person on Earth, but our ability to predict it is only as good as the data that our weather models can use as a starting point. Unfortunately, not every point on Earth has a weather station or weather balloon gathering data and meteorologists must stretch every bit of satellite-based weather data as far as it goes. By gathering weather data on a global basis, regardless of altitude or geolocation, NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 satellites provide data that is critical to bolstering our ability to forecast weather that often has lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance. There is a critical need for global flight tracking. Earth’s current systems, which are mainly land-based, do little over open ocean and remote areas. Flight tracking services often rely on computer models which predict the location of aircraft rather than really knowing where a plane is. These LEMUR-2 spacecraft are equipped with a flight tracking technology (Automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast) that tracks planes even in difficult areas. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a requirement for most aircraft.
Spire’s many small satellites provide close to real time information from anywhere on Earth. In the maritime sector, these satellites increase safety and security across the planet’s oceans (for example, search and rescue, piracy prevention, etc.). In addition, Spire’s satellites significantly increase the amount of raw weather data available for global weather forecasts resulting in higher accuracy, consistency, and the potential for longer range forecasting. These LEMUR-2 satellites also allow Spire to validate specific elements of its technology such as antenna deployment mechanisms, satellite-to-ground communications link, among others. With results from this research, Spire continues to expand it’s constellation of satellites to deliver near real time updates on maritime, aviation, and weather data from anywhere on Earth.

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Space Applications
The investigation’s technology, conducted through a CubeSat, may facilitate future space missions by providing preliminary weather data and tracking tools to explore celestial bodies.

Earth Applications
The weather prediction portion of this investigation may aide in many areas from agriculture to transportation. The tracking portion may avoid influxes of traffic and accidents, and it may help policing efforts to combat illegal fishing and piracy.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols
NanoRacks CubeSats are delivered to the ISS already integrated within a NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer (NRCSD). A crew member transfers each NRCSD from the launch vehicle to the Japanese Experiment Module (JEM). Visual inspection for damage to each NRCSD is performed. When CubeSat deployment operations begin, the NRCSDs 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
Ardusat (now Because Learning!)

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NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 is being loaded into the NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer. Image courtesy of Spire Global, Inc.

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Spire engineer Shaina is running tests on the NanoRacks-LEMUR-2 qualification model. Included in the photo: Shaina Johl, Joel Spark. Image courtesy of Spire Global, Inc.

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