Japanese Weathernews will launch a satellite in September 2012 that will provide navigational services to ships travelling along the Russian and North American coasts in the Arctic Ocean, the newspaper Nikkei reported.
A 30 percent reduction in sea ice coverage over the last 30 years due to global warming has opened up the Arctic Ocean to shipping, including the shortest sea route between Europe and Asia.
The satellite will be launched from the Yasny launch base in Russia's Orenburg region. The cost of development and launch will be about $1.7 million. It will circle the Earth 15 times a day.
The satellite will transmit images and information about sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. Weathernews will combine the information with available data on sea currents, weather and wave height to provide consumers with a finished product enabling safe navigation along the northern route.
"Even a one-week reduction in travel time will significantly reduce fuel costs and speed cargo delivery to the end point. Moreover, this route is much safer than other routes that expose ships to attack from Somali pirates," Nikkei reported, citing a major Japanese shipping company.