Sternula has been a part of Navelink since 2020 and are now renewing their enrollment with Navelink, governed by Combitech, until at least the end of 2023. 

Sternula is a Danish commercial satellite operator that provides global satellite connectivity for the maritime domain using their fleet of advanced micro-satellites in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). They are a provider of connectivity for maritime authorities and industries where the use of VHF Data Exchange System satellites plays an essential role. 

Their aim with implementing the VHF Data Exchange System (VDES) is to turn it into the world’s largest maritime telecom network in terms of connected users and develop and demonstrate maritime Internet of Things (IoT) services based on VDES technology. Sternula takes an active role together with global maritime stakeholders to standardize VDES under IALA, IMO, and ITU. The aim of this work is to enable safety at sea and help shipping companies save costs and reduce pollution. 

Stefan Pielmeier, founder and CTO at Sternula, presented the latest news on VDES on one of Navelink’s Developer forums. One goal of implementing VDES is to enable any ship to be within communication reach anywhere in the world, regardless of Internet access on board. Sternula also aims to offload ASM traffic from the narrow and crowded AIS channels through offering seamless integration to additional channels such as:   

  • Connecting VHF Data Exchange with Terrestrial communication; VDE-TER on the 200 kHz bandwidth, enabling ship-ship, ship-shore, and shore-shore communication,   
  • Connecting VHF Data Exchange with Satellite communication; VDE-SAT on the 100 kHz and 300 kHz bandwidths, enabling ship-satellite and satellite-ship communication.   

A crucial step is standardization. Sternula stresses the importance of authority-regulated data formats on ECDIS and of the equipment itself. VDES therefore develops with integration to the Maritime Connectivity Platform (MCP) and the Maritime Messaging Service (MMS) in mind throughout the whole development process.  

In a new ESA-funded research project, Sternula and Space Norway are collaborating to develop and demonstrate maritime Internet of Things services based on the VDES technology, VDES satellite network roaming and maritime distress alert detection in support of search and rescue. This project can create opportunities for innovative maritime digital data services supporting e-Navigation and the digitalization of the maritime industry. 

The phase Sternula is in now, is testing their technical solutions. Their first commercial satellite, Sternula 1, is carrying a large VHF antenna. Sternula 1 was successfully launched in the beginning of January 2023 and has been in orbit since then with the goal of providing high-speed data transfer and communication services. Sternula also has ongoing collaborations with Japan, Togo, and Australia. They aim to demonstrate VDES using Sternula-1 during the AIS 2.0 Worldwide Demo Projects in April 2023. 

The Navelink team is thrilled to continue our work with Sternula and to support their growth and success. 


Author: Milena Dalinaros