The ambitious and globally unique ICARUS project receives funding from ROSKOSMOS

Published by Max Planck Institute on Thu, 12/04/2014 - 09:17
International Space Station ISS, copyright NASA

Observing small animals from space will soon be reality

 Billions of songbirds migrate from one continent to another every year. Many species of bat and innumerable species of insect also cover large distances – and also possibly change continents in the process. We unfortunately have no accurate knowledge about this, as scientists have not yet been able to follow small and tiny animals during their long journey. Yet such knowledge plays an important role in understanding how pathogens are spread by their hosts, for example. In order to remedy this global lack of knowledge on the spread of small and tiny animals and their particular migratory behaviour, the ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) project was inaugurated in 2012 by an international consortium of scientists.  The ratification of a bilateral agreement between the Russian space agency ROSKOSMOS and the DLR Space Administration means a decisive step has now been taken towards satellite-based remote sensing of animal migration from space.

 “The agreement with ROSKOSMOS ensures, among other things, that Russia’s contribution, especially the installation on the Russian part of the International Space Station, matches the German contributions,” explains Martin Wikelski. The Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO) in Radolfzell and full professor at the University of Constance is the key driving force behind this globally unique research project, which the European Science Foundation assessed as being scientifically excellent in 2009 in the ELIPS programme of the European Space Agency (ESA), and which the DLR Space Administration has funded since March 2012 as a German national project. “The public funding is an important step towards an independent ICARUS satellite constellation in a low Earth orbit which will enable us to make global, long-term observations of small and tiny animals from space with comprehensive geographic coverage,” says Wikelski.

 The major project kicked off in March 2012 with a feasibility study and has been in the implementation phase since August 2013. The Space Administration of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is funding ICARUS as part of the “National space programme space station and manned spaceflight”. In parallel with the DLR funding measures, the Max Planck Society has been providing € 1.7 million from its own funds since December 2013 for the miniaturisation of the ICARUS radio chip. Funding of approx. € 19 million is available for the years to come to develop the technologies required for the project. The main contractor and technical project manager of the MPIO is SpaceTech GmbH, Immenstaad, Lake Constance, which has a very high level of competence in the field of aerospace technology.

 The experimental ICARUS system is expected to be installed on the Russian service module of the international Space Station ISS in spring 2016. The scientists hope the data generated by ICARUS will provide them with revolutionary findings on the life, behaviour, vital functions and death of animals on our planet.  The Russian side of the scientific collaboration is headed by Dr. Grigori Tertitski, a biologist at the Institute for Geography of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is currently coordinating 16 major projects of Russian ecologists, who will use the ICARUS technology from 2016 onwards. The globally collated data allow conclusions to be drawn on the spread of diseases (zoonoses), findings on climate change, and the forecasting of disasters. “There is no doubt that the anticipated research findings will be of inestimable importance for humankind, and ultimately for our life on Earth,” emphasises Martin Wikelski.

ICARUS Scientific Kick-Off Workshop Russia

Published by Max Planck Institute on Mon, 11/24/2014 - 14:27

Organized by the IG RAS (Institute of Geography, Russian Academy of Sciences) and the MPIO (Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell), the first Russian-German ICARUS kick-off Workshop was held at the Russian Academy of Sciences Headquarter Moscow from November 19th-21st. The 16 winners of the contest "ICARUS Russia" presented their most interesting and challenging scientific experiments for the ICARUS experimental phase which will start in summer 2016 after the launch of ICARUS on the ISS (International Space Station).



Please see the presentations of the projects by following the link: 
scientific presentations

ICARUS side event on CMS/COP11 meeting in Quito/Ecuador on Nov. 7th, 2014

Published by Max Planck Institute on Mon, 11/10/2014 - 11:44

Organized by the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology and the University of Konstanz, this event showcased the International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space (ICARUS) system – a global collaboration of animal scientists establishing satellite-based infrastructure for the observation of small species, including birds, bats and sea turtles. Martin Wilkeski, Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology, explained the system, highlighting that it consists of both space-borne elements including the International Space Center, and earth-borne elements including miniaturized animal tags.
Participants at the event discussed the importance of ICARUS, including its uses in disaster forecasting, conservation and discovery of unknown migrations.
UNEP/CMS/COP11 final resolution:
"Acknowledging that the ability to increasingly track animals globally will greatly enhance the knowledge base for informed conservation decision making, for example through global tracking initiatives such as ICARUS (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space), planned to be implemented on the International Space Station by the German and Russian Aerospace Centres (DLR and Roscosmos) by the end of 2015; "

Migration ecology (Tracking animal movement)

29. For many migratory species knowledge of their migration routes, the timing of their migration and consequently threats during their migration is missing. Furthermore there is a high number of endangered species, especially smaller ones, where it is unknown if they exhibit migratory behaviour. New technologies, such as those developed under the ICARUS project7, and new methodologies will make tracking of smaller animals feasible. Increasing application of existing animal tracking methodology and adoption of new technology and methods, holds great promise to improve knowledge on the migratory behaviour of many species. Several research institutes and universities advance research on tracking animal movement, including, for example, the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the members of ICARUS. Keeping up to date on these new technologies and promoting their use among CMS Parties is an issue that can help bring forward the CMS agenda in the coming years, particularly the Convention’s work on connectivity and ecological networks.

2. Technical Russian/German ICARUS Meeting

Published by Max Planck Institute on Tue, 07/08/2014 - 12:58

From the 23rd of June until the 27th of June, the second technical German/Russian ICARUS meeting took place at Lake Constance. In collaboration with the Russian colleagues from RKK-Energia and IG RAS Moscow, as well as Space Tech Immenstaad and the DLR (German Aerospace Center) the technical and scientific parameter were redefined, because of the amended implementation of the ICARUS Hardware on the Russian Service Module of the ISS(International Space Station). The documents were ratified. As a result of the necessary redesign, the launch date was changed to spring 2016. At the same time the first ICARUS tag prototype will be tested by the ICARUS system on the ISS from an altitude of 430-470km above the earth surface.

Preliminary Design Review (PDR) of the ICARUS Space Project successfully achieved

Published by Max Planck Institute on Thu, 04/03/2014 - 13:59

The Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology held the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) from March 26 to March 27, 2014 in Radolfzell.

The review was carried out according to the strict DLR (German Aerospace) guidelines and achieved the technical maturity of the PDR successfully.

The Max-Planck thanks the Review Board, Review-  and Technical Team for their big support in the project.