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ESAVS Paper Series – First Edition: A Compilation of Measured ADS-B Performance Characteristics from Aireon’s On-Orbit Test Program


This past fall, Aireon participated in and sponsored an event called, The International Symposium on Enhanced Solutions for Aircraft and Vehicle Surveillance Applications in Berlin, Germany. The Aireon team shared three papers at this conference which reveal some of the results of the most recent AireonSM system performance tests. We’d like to share these papers containing exciting performance results with you in a three-part blog series.

Those in the Air Traffic Management (ATM) industry are aware that Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is ushering in a new era of flight tracking, surveillance, improved safety and increased efficiency.  Space-based ADS-B, in particular, is rapidly transforming aircraft surveillance, and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) are depending on rigorous testing for operational and regulatory acceptance in their respective airspaces.

As the first system of its kind, Aireon has been very hard at work testing the system since the first batch of 10 ADS-B receivers went into orbit during the first Iridium® NEXT launch in January 2017.  One aspect of this phase has been a series of on-orbit tests to verify and validate key requirements and expectations.

This paper discusses the results observed with 55 payloads receiving space-based ADS-B data. The full constellation requires 66 payloads for a truly global view, which will be completed following the eighth and final SpaceX launch scheduled for early January 2019. In this study, ADS-B transmitters (bottom-only antenna aircraft) were analyzed in isolation.  This helps the Aireon team to understand their performance profiles and illuminates the key capabilities of the system, while setting expectations.  Technical Performance Metrics (TPMs) are the highest priority of requirements being tested currently. Aireon’s TPMs are composed of availability, latency and update interval.

By comparison, smaller satellites (cubesats/nanosats) are likely to have more difficulty detecting bottom-only aircraft.  With a partial constellation, Aireon is already receiving roughly 13 billion ADS-B messages per month, and this number is expected to rise. The potential of this system has only begun to be explored, giving rise to new metrics and applications in the space-based ADS-B frontier.

You can read the entire study, “A Compilation of Measured ADS-B Performance Characteristics from Aireon’s On-Orbit Test Program” here.  Within this paper, you’ll find test results regarding Aireon’s system latency from existing Service Delivery Points (SDPs) and information about update interval performance. Additionally, you’ll get a peek behind the curtain, and look at space-based ADS-B surveillance on the surface of an airport, and much more.

This paper is authored by Dr. Michael A. Garcia, John Dolan, Ben Haber, Andy Hoag and Dennis Diekelman.