cockpit illustration

1090 Global

What the Flight: Workings of a Space-Based ADS-B Test Flight


Back at the end of January, I shared with you the incredible experience of the first launch and initial check out of our first payload. Since that time, we have started our rigorous testing campaign collecting data on both ADS-B targets of opportunity and uniquely configured test aircraft operated by NAV CANADA, the FAA and Polaris Flight Systems.

Test Flight are an incredibly important component of our campaign to change-the-game in air traffic surveillance.  With our first few payloads now receiving data, we’ve embarked on multiple staged flight test profiles in unique environments to further validate the AireonSM system.  In order to measure effectiveness, we devised a number of key test cases to help stress test the system. Many of our key performance estimates were determined using an Aireon simulator, which bases outcomes on design criteria, and it’s exciting to see real-world results validate and even exceed some of those estimates.

By mid-April we expect to have 8 Aireon payloads in mission orbit at 780 km above the earth. Currently we have access to 5 payloads providing us with a constant stream of ADS-B data. The Aireon engineering team has been sifting through the collected test flight results and proudly reported results that have exceeded our expectations.

To get a bit technical – the measured results show a detected max slant range distance of over 3700 km compared to the projected range of 2550 km. The update interval in both the low and high 1090 MHz interference environment meet our design goals.

So, what does this mean to the customer? The larger slant range should enable larger overlapping coverage volumes per payload, which would improve surveillance service robustness, while the early assessment of update interval enables our customers to explore the usage of spaced based ADS-B as an augmentation surveillance source or radar replacement.

Not bad for a quick-look assessment, and we expect to report improved update intervals as we fill in the satellite mesh network over the next year. More to come, so stay tuned to the Aireon 1090 Global Blog.

As of April 10th, 2017, Aireon has five ADS-B payloads under testing.

Authored by Vinny Capezzuto Aireon Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Engineering