ICARUS: International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space

Knowledge concerning the migration of individual animals and whole populations has always been of high interest to mankind.

ICARUS mission goal

The space-bound animal monitoring system ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) will provide a global and innovative approach for permanent tracking of light-weight and land animals, covering a multitude of regions and species and thus outperforming existing systems.

ICARUS provides complete new insights in animal behaviour

  • Dispersal and migration of animals damaging human food
  • Global disease spreading by animals
  • Wild animal behaviour in changing environments
  • Preservation of biodiversity and endangered wildlife protection

ICARUS Science on Earth

Illustration of animal migration paths and other application for ICARUS

The project got underway in 2002, the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO) in Radolfzell/Konstanz (Germany) holds the leading role of the international consortium and the DLR aerospace management is funding the project since 2012. More information about the project can be found at: http://icarusinitiative.org/about-icarus

SpaceTech has been selected by the MPIO team for the space-related segments of the project, due to their experience, and has been working on

  1. ICARUS space segment: the ICARUS Demonstrator, has been sent to the ISS February 2018 and were installed on the Russian module August 15th, 2018
  2. ICARUS Animal Tag: a prototype of the tracking sensor, meeting the main science requirements

ICARUS demonstrator

The ICARUS on-board equipment (demonstrator/antenna) has been sent to the ISS February 2018 and was successfully installed August 15th, 2018 on the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).

Key characteristics of the ICARUS demonstrator
  • Consists of electronic unit, transmit antenna and 3 receive antennas
  • Detection of up to 500 tags in the reception range of the antennas
  • Provides communication coverage with tag of 90 % within 24 hours in an area between 58° Northern and Southern latitudes

Overview MPIO

Overview of deployed ICARUS system

Technical challenges for the ICARUS demonstrator
  • Global tag coverage to record long distance migration patterns
  • Simultaneous communication with a multitude of animal tags
  • Extremely low tag mass and size to allow tracking of small animals
  • Long, maintenance-free tag life in order to cover complete migration cycles
  • Logging of internal (physiological) and external (environmental) state of animals
ICARUS animal tag

SpaceTech has finished the predevelopment of an ICARUS animal tag prototype that incorporates a set of sensors, allowing scientists to analyse its movement patterns and vital parameters. The total mass does not surpass 5 g - the major science requirement, allowing for tracking of animals as light as 100 g body weight. The tag determines the next contact times with the ISS via orbit propagation.

Key characteristics of the ICARUS animal tag
  • Measures absolute position (GPS), acceleration and local temperatures
  • Low volume (22 x 13 x 7 mm²) and mass (5g)
  • Operating Temperature Range: -10 up to +50°C
  • Antenna length of 48 mm (GPS)
  • Design life time of 1 year
  • Communication capability to the ISS and up to 800 km
  • Battery capacity of 65 mAh



Impressions of the ICARUS project
  • 01_ICARUS_early_concept
  • 02_ICARUS_Concept
  • 03-Basic-Tag-Model
  • 04-Illustration_ISS_Overflight
  • 05-Typical-Ground-Pattern_Link-Probability
  • 06-ICARUS_Antenna_STI_Cleanroom
  • 07-NBL-Test_Therme-Konstanz
  • 08-ICARUS-Antenna-in-Cleanroom
  • 09-STI_ICARUS_Team_Cleanroom
  • 10-Progress-Launcher-with_ISS-Demonstrator
  • 11-Handover-Hardware-to-Russian-Team
  • 12-Progress-launcher-on-launch-pad
  • 13-Launch-of-ICARUS-ISS-Demonstrator-with-Progress-Launcher-Baikonur