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After being handed complete control of its space-based ADS-B transceiver payload on one of the first 10 orbiting Iridium NEXT low-earth orbit communications satellites on 24 February, Aireon expects to receive control of another seven payloads “roughly over the next month” for testing, once Iridium has raised the satellites to their operational orbits.
Speaking to RGN, Aireon CEO Don Thoma says that after the first 10 satellites were launched on 14 January – on a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster launched from Vandenberg AFB in California – Iridium monopolized testing of the satellites until late February so that it could verify their orbital dynamics and ensure the satellites were functioning properly.
However, on 25 January, Aireon was able to turn on its payloads on the 10 orbiting satellites briefly to confirm they were functioning and to allow the payloads to perform self-testing. This process activated the payloads’ antennas briefly and in the short periods during which the antennas were active they transmitted thousands of ADS-B position reports from 150 aircraft, Aireon being able to receive and decode each message.