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NorSat-TD, Norway’s new national satellite, is launched

NorSat-TD is a technology demonstrator for satellite control, tracking, navigation, communication and maritime traffic monitoring.

October 19, 2023
NorSat-TD (Technology demonstrator) is a small Norwegian experimental satellite testing new technology from several countries.
NorSat-TD (Technology demonstrator) is a small Norwegian experimental satellite testing new technology from several countries.UTIAS/SFL

NorSat Technology Demonstrator (NorSat-TD) was launched on Saturday the 15th of April, 8:48 AM Central European Summer Time with a Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The launch was streamed on SpaceX Youtube channel.

Green ion motor for satellite propulsion

NorSat-TD will test a new system for satellite propulsion, a motor powered only by electricity and iodine. This ion motor has been delivered by the French company ThrustMe, in cooperation with France’s space agency CNES.

"This motor enables us to control the satellite for increasing the Norwegian capabilities of navigating and operating a satellite in low Earth orbit. Not the least because this is an environment where the number of satellites will increase in the near future," says Tyler Jones, project manager for satellites at the Norwegian Space Agency.

The ion motor will make it possible to move NorSat-TD in case of dangerously close satellites or space debris. When the mission is over, the motor can be used to lower the satellite into the Earth’s atmosphere for disintegration.

"This way we can avoid adding to the space debris already in orbit. With a propulsion system that only uses electricity and iodine, this is a green technology for the Earth as well," says Jones.

Super GPS and laser reflector for satellite tracking

For satellite operations, accurate tracking is necessary. Thus, NorSat-TD has a payload for satellite tracking and navigation, named Space Star. This has been delivered by the Norwegian company Fugro AS.

"Space Star will pinpoint NorSat-TD’s position in real time with an accuracy of less than 10 centimeters. This is important not only for satellite tracking and control, but also for satellites that are flying in formation and for collision warning," says Jones.

NorSat-TD carries another payload for tracking, in the form of a new and miniaturized laser reflector. This instrument will reflect lasers from Earth in order to measure the distance to the satellite and determine its orbital position with millimeter accuracy.

The laser reflector has been delivered by the Italian nuclear research institute INRI SCF Lab, in cooperation with Italy’s space agency ASI.

"With Space Star, the laser reflector and the ion motor on board, we do not need to move the satellite very far in order to build experience with orbital manouvering and tracking. With these technologies we only need to move NorSat-TD a few meters, while obtaining data of both tracking, navigation and motor performance," says Jones.

Laser for transmitting data to Earth

NorSat-TD will not only reflect lasers from Earth, the satellite also has a laser as payload, to be beamed to telescopes on the ground.

"This laser system is a collaboration with the Dutch space agency NSO and is named SmallCAT. This laser will beam data to a telescope on Earth to enable the transfer of much larger amounts of data than can be downlinked from satellites today by radio frequencies," says Jones.

SmallCAT is the Dutch payload on NorSat-TD and will demonstrate laser communication in space.

SmallCAT is the Dutch payload on NorSat-TD and will demonstrate laser communication in space.

Illustration: TNO

Located in Delft, Netherlands, at the research institute TNO is the main telescope station for testing the optical laser communications technology from orbit.

"The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) is developing a similar type of telescope. This telescope will be tested by SmallCat onboard NorSat-TD, with TNO and Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) as project partners," says Jones.

KSAT’s satellite station SvalSat on the Arctic island of Svalbard is one of the most used in the world. All types of satellites in orbit around Earth and spacecraft in the solar system use SvalSat as ground station.

AIS receiver for monitoring maritime traffic

Similar to the other Norwegian satellites NorSat-1, NorSat-2 og NorSat-3, NorSat-TD carries an AIS receiver from the Norwegian company Kongsberg Seatex.

This AIS receiver will monitor maritime traffic in Norwegian and international waters via the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which all vessels above a gross tonnage of 300 are obliged to carry.

Norwegian authorities use this system to monitor maritime traffic, illegal fishing, smuggling, oil spills and more.

"The AIS receiver on NorSat-TD is a new and miniaturized fifth generation AIS receiver and will be performing similar tasks as the AIS receivers on the other Norwegian national satellites. In addition, it will also be used to test Internet Of Things in the Arctic," says Jones.

Moreover, NorSat-TD has a payload for a new system for two-way communication between satellites, ships and land. This system, called VHF Data Exchange System (VDES), has been delivered by SpaceNorway and enables both sending and receiving maritime messages.

"These include ice maps, navigational data, alerts from authorities and information crucial for search and rescue, he says.

A moment for celebration

"The various payloads onboard NorSat-TD have received support from several of the European Space Agency’s programs. ESA is a part of the NorSat-TD collaboration," says Jones.

He plans on watching NorSat-TD’s launch on a SpaceX rocket from California.

"Watching the launch will be very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it. It will be a moment for celebration to see the rocket with NorSat-TD lift off. But it will be even greater to receive the first signals from the satellite confirming that all is well."

Christian Hauglie-Hanssen (left) and Tom van Oorschot signed the agreement for NorSat-TD and SmallCAT in Oslo.

Christian Hauglie-Hanssen (left) and Tom van Oorschot signed the agreement for NorSat-TD and SmallCAT in Oslo.

Foto: NOSA

Fact Sheet


 NorSat Technology Demonstrator (NorSat-TD)

Developed by:

Norwegian Space Agency


Norwegian Space Agency

Satellite bus made by:

University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies - Space Flight Laboratory (UTIAS-SFL)

Demonstrates technology from:

 INRI SCF Lab, Fugro AS, Kongsberg Seatex AS, Thrust Me, TNO, Space Norway AS

Operated by:


Collaborating nations:

France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway


 12 th of April 2023, 8:48 AM Central European Summer Time


30 x 30 x 40 cm (folded), 160 x 110 x 40 cm with antennae and solar panels folded out


Cirka 35 kg