Aireon announced today the successful launch and deployment of the third batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, carrying its space-based automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) payloads. Conducted from Vandenberg Air Force Base with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 5:37 a.m. PDT, this launch has increased the total number of Aireon payloads in orbit to 30, with another 45 destined for space in a series of five additional launches planned over the next ten months. Aireon is well on its way to become the first to provide global, real-time air traffic surveillance and tracking to air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and aviation stakeholders.
The Aireon payloads from the first two launches, completed on January 14th and June 25th of 2017, have demonstrated the ground-breaking capability to identify aircraft all over world, resulting in more than six billion ADS-B position reports being received in just seven months. Besides highly accurate position reports from commercial aircraft, the system has generated position reports from helicopters, general aviation aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and surface vehicles, such as airport maintenance vehicles. These findings are a testament to the strength of the Aireon system.
Many Aireon customers and partners, including NAV CANADA, Enav, Naviair, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), South Africa’s Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) and FlightAware, have been connected to the system in preparation for live operations in 2018. Initial results of these integrations show an average update of position data for ADS-B equipped aircraft approximately every five seconds. This will enable Aireon to provide radar-like position information to air traffic controllers in 100 percent of their airspace. That far surpasses current coverage capabilities, where 70-plus percent of the world, particularly oceanic airspace, averages 10-minute to 18-minute aircraft position updates.
“Air traffic surveillance over the oceans is a dramatic change to the current operating environment. Knowing, in real time, where an aircraft is flying over 500 miles per hour makes a big difference to the ability of air traffic controllers to efficiently and safely manage their airspace,” said Aireon Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering, Vincent Capezzuto. “The industry has always maintained a safety-first mindset, and this new data will further contribute to key industry goals such as reducing risk, increasing efficiency and improving environmental sustainability due to reduced fuel consumption. With 10 more satellites now in-orbit and going directly into service after the testing and validation phase, we are that much closer to providing this world-changing service.”
In September of 2016, Aireon and FlightAware announced a partnership and the launch of GlobalBeaconSM, a solution that will provide airlines with 100 percent global flight tracking. GlobalBeacon is designed to ensure airlines are in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Global Aeronautical Distress Safety System (GADSS) recommendations and requirements.
“Even with only a partial constellation in orbit, we’ve been able to start tracking flights that nobody has been able to fully track before,” said FlightAware CEO, Daniel Baker. “Each and every successful launch of Iridium NEXT satellites makes us more excited to be the first and only flight tracking service to offer 100% global coverage to airline customers and other partners like SITAONAIR. Through our partnership with Aireon, we will be able to provide an unprecedented level of visibility and enable operators unparalleled control of their fleet.”
The Aireon service is hosted by the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, which will consist of 66 low-earth orbit interconnected satellites. A total of 81 Iridium NEXT satellites are being built, all of which will have the Aireon payload onboard. Currently, 75 satellites are planned to be deployed with nine serving as on-orbit spares and the remaining six as ground spares. After launch, each satellite payload goes through a rigorous period of testing and validation ensuring optimal performance is achieved. The constellation is planned for completion in mid-2018.
Watch the launch via SpaceX's youtube channel: