VIDEO: NASA’s CubeSat for next-generation marine animal telemetry

A vision for next-generation animal telemetry: imagine a future where a network of small satellites, CubeSats, will track the movement of marine animals with more precision than is possible today. A new video on a collaborative project between BOEM and NASA sparks the imagination to better understand and protect the marine environment and the animals that live there.

CubeSats are a class of small research-class spacecraft. NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) provides opportunities for small satellite payloads to hitch-hike on rockets planned for upcoming launches. This program engages engineering schools across the United States to develop low-cost micro satellite experiments and has been developing and launching these CubeSats at a rate as high as 100 per year.

Some CubeSats have adopted the APRS system for tracking position and relaying data of other transmitters. This is the same system that NASA maintains aboard the International Space Station for outreach to students and amateur experimenters around the world. Additional APRS transreceivers can be placed easily on the future CubeSats, as well as AUVs, ocean going vessels, and existing buoys to create a truly wired ocean.

Marine Mammals, fishes and invertebrates of particular interest for impact analysis include those species that are commercially or recreationally important, are threatened or endangered, or are keystone (for example, important prey) species. Data collected by these tags can be relayed in real-time (or delayed mode) via satellite. Due to limited bandwidth in these transmissions not all of the data can be relayed. This results in a need for some data-processing on the tag and only a subset or summary of the data being recovered.

However, as the instrument does not have to physically be recovered these tags can be deployed on animals not suitable for archival tags alone. The planet is changing quickly, through this study BOEM can be a catalyst for a truly wired ocean. Though the implementation of this project, BOEM achieves improved tools for OCS monitoring, STEM partners are engaged in an innovative program, together leading to a tech savvy workforce while filling in gaps in OCS data cost effectively.