Kourou/Betzdorf, September 3, 2020. ESAIL, the first commercial microsatellite developed under the European Space Agency ESA’s SAT-AIS programme for tracking ships, took off successfully from the spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, on board a Vega launcher at 3.51 a.m. (CET) tonight, reaching its orbit just under two hours later. Luxembourg-based LuxSpace, a subsidiary of the space and technology group OHB SE, was responsible for the full integration of ESAIL.
The long wait for the launch
ESAIL was originally to be launched in March 2020. However, due to the corona pandemic, the French government largely shut down the spaceport in French Guyana in March. Unable to complete their work on the satellite, the LuxSpace team traveled back to Europe and had to control the launch preparations remotely from the LuxSpace headquarters in Betzdorf. Other launch dates planned for June, July and August also had to be postponed due to heavy winds. “I have rarely had to wait this long for a successful launch of an OHB satellite. This makes me all the happier that ESAIL has now finally been able to embark on its journey into space,” says LuxSpace Managing Director Jochen Harms.
ESAIL is watching you
The client exactEarth will be using ESAIL for worldwide ship monitoring. ESAIL will form part of the exactEarth satellite constellation, which will monitor ships using its automatic identification system. ESAIL has been developed in an ESA partnership programme with the support of the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) to improve the next generation of satellite-based services for the maritime sector.