Russia details plans for satellite monitoring of the NSR

Transport ships get over the ice between Dudinka and Murmansk with the help of nuclear icebreakers Taymyr and Vaygach. Credit: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Russian federal space agency Roscosmos will deploy a network of satellites to improve satellite link communication and remote sensing in the Arctic along the Northern Sea Route (NSR) by December 2025.

Four Express-RV satellites will be launched to improve Arctic communications by 2025. The highly elliptical orbit of the satellite system would provide broadband satellite for fixed and mobile applications for all of Russia and the Arctic. Roscosmos said this would include the northern latitudes above the 80th parallel – a circle of latitude 80 degrees north of the Earth’s equatorial plane – where geostationary systems cannot currently provide coverage.

The new system would meet communication needs in the region for vessel types traversing the Arctic, including icebreakers, merchant ships, various research and scientific expeditions, meteorological services, rescuers, and coastguards.

In addition, Roscosmos will deploy three Resource-PM satellites and three Concord-FKA satellites. These will serve to ensure higher operation speeds to improve automatic identification systems and remote-sensing systems on the NSR.

Russia is also set to launch the Arctic-M hydrometeorological space system into orbit in December 2020. It should provide government agencies and organisations with high-resolution hydrometeorological data, including short-term forecasts of ice drift, for the Arctic, to ensure ship routes are safe.

Meanwhile, by June 2021, the Russian government plans to launch a unified dispatch centre in the Arctic for ship management on the NSR. It will collect data from all satellites and ground earth stations to share up-to-date information with seafarers.

Russian government officials have repeatedly stated that satellite monitoring is considered a crucial part of ensuring shipping safety on the NSR, and the expansion of the satellite network is included in its Federal Space Programme from 2019 to 2022.

The Russian government previously proposed that all vessels from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and the United States that travel through the NSR would use the Russian-designed satellite system.