U.S. Coast Guard to Launch its First Satellites in 2018

A conceptual design of the Coast Guard’s first cubesats, miniature satellites that will be launched in 2018. U.S. Coast Guard graphic.

The U.S. Coast Guard is planning to launch its first satellites in 2018 to demonstrate the use of satellites for Arctic search and rescue missions. The program, called “Polar Scout”, involves the use of miniature satellites called cubesats. The USCG Research and Development Center (USCG RDC) is investigating cubesat capabilities and examining how the satellites can assist a variety of USCG missions.

“Our final product will be a cubesat roadmap, where we will make recommendations for how the Coast Guard can use the technology and explain the operations, maintenance and logistical issues involved,” Lt. Cmdr. Samuel Nassar at the USCG RDC, said in a statement on Dec. 14. (Nassar is assistant branch chief of C4ISR, a common defense acronym that stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.)

The Coast Guard wants to demonstrate the cubesat technology to potentially augment satellites operated by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that detect emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) from vessels operating in the Arctic while the agency undertakes an effort to replace the satellites. The USCG said each of its two satellites will pass over the North Pole every 90 to 100 minutes and will be able to detect EPIRB signals from vessels for about 12 minutes on each orbit, amounting to more than three hours of coverage in the Arctic each day.

The RDC has built a ground control station in Fairbanks, Alaska, and it also plans to build one at its academy in New London, Connecticut to provide command and control of the cubesats and their payloads.

Millennium Engineering and Integration is preparing the satellites with help from Space Dynamics Laboratory, a nonprofit unit of Utah State University, and Raytheon. The Air Force Operationally Responsive Space Office is also partnering with the USCG on the cubesat demonstration.

Read more at the U.S. Coast Guard website.


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