The space-bound German-Russian animal monitoring system ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) will start in-orbit commissioning today - 10 July 2019.

Final tests at STI facilities

In this final test phase, ICARUS engineers and scientists are going to check all system components on ground and on board the ISS as well as the tags (transmitters) that collect the animal data, including:

  • Health testing: The ICARUS payload will be switched on after being dormant on the ISS for almost one year. After switch-on the health of all components will be checked.
  • Background noise testing: Since the communication between tags and ISS is based on extremely low-power transmission signals, the ICARUS antenna will globally record the background noise in the used frequency range. The noise map will be analyzed for potential disturbers.
  • Uplink testing: A test ground station at STI facilities in Kippenhausen, Germany will simulate up to 1000 tag signals and transmit them to the ICARUS Antenna on the ISS. Correct reception on the ISS will be verified by recording the transmissions and off-line analysis of the data.
  • Downlink testing: The ICARUS antenna on the ISS cyclically transmits ISS position information essential to establish communication between tag and ISS and commands for the tags. The signals will be received by the Kippenhausen Ground Station and will be evaluated by STI for completeness and correctness.
ICARUS animal tag blackbird
Tagged blackbird
  ICARUS bird migration
Bird migration
ICARUS system

ICARUS is a cooperative project with the Russian space agency Roskosmos and the German Aerospace Center DLR under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Martin Wikelski from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz. The ICARUS system was designed and built by SpaceTech GmbH, with contributions from the German SMEs vH&S, Rohde&Schwarz INRADIOS, STT-SystemTechnik and with support of UniBW in M√ľnchen.
ICARUS will provide a global and innovative approach for constant tracking of flying birds and land animals, covering a multitude of regions and species.
The system consists of the ICARUS Antenna, installed on the International Space Station (ISS), as well as the small, ultra-light-weight transmitters, carried by the animal - so called animal tags. The tags collect data of position, magnetic field, humidity, temperature as well as motion of the tracked animal.
The ICARUS antenna on the ISS covers the data reception from >100 animal tags residing within an uplink window of 800 x 30 km and can transmit data to tags in a downlink radius of 660 km.

Mission goal

The ICARUS project will deliver new insight and information about:

  • Wild animal behaviour in changing environments
  • Preservation of biodiversity and endangered wildlife protection
  • Dispersal and migration of animals damaging human food
  • Global disease spreading by animals
  • Earthquakes and other natural catastrophes (early warning system)

ICARUS is expected to be available to the scientific community in winter 2019 upon completion of all the tests.

ICARUS communication antenna tag
Communication between antenna and tag
  ICARUS animal migrations
Visible animal migrations

See video for more mission details here >

Get more insight about the technical side of ICARUS here >