The FAA manages the largest airspace in the world with responsibility for more than 24,600,000 square miles of oceanic airspace. As such, the FAA needed to play an important role in the development and deployment of space-based ADS-B. The FAA was one of the first ANSPs to partner with Aireon to explore using space-based ADS-B and entered into a MOA in 2011. The FAA has engaged in the requirements development and the design process of the Aireon system from its inception, in order to influence critical safety and security requirements and to ensure Aireon built a robust surveillance system.
Aireon was created in 2012 to provide real-time global air traffic surveillance anywhere in the world. Aireon’s service will use space-qualified Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) receivers built into each of the 66 satellites in Iridium NEXT, Iridium’s second-generation satellite constellation, to deliver this transformational capability.
Aireon signed a 17-year, $42 million agreement with ITT Exelis (now Harris) to provide the ADS-B data processing and distribution component of the Aireon℠ system. Under the terms of the contract, Harris designed and built the processing and distribution platform, a critical component of the Aireon system, and will operate and maintain the system for 15 years.
Harris will provide 81 ADS-B 1090 Extended Squitter receiver payloads to Aireon. The Harris contract represents the largest implementation of a hosted payload solution to date. ADS-B receiver payloads will be mounted on each Iridium NEXT satellite to operate independently and perform the air traffic surveillance function separately from the main mission of the spacecraft. ADS-B payload power will come from the main satellite bus and it will be designed to work with other sub-systems such as thermal management or communications systems.
NAV CANADA agreed to make a total investment in Aireon of up to $150 million. This investment will be made in five tranches, each subject to the satisfaction of various operational, commercial, regulatory and financial conditions. Payment for the first tranche — amounting to $15 million and representing 5.1 percent of the fully diluted equity of Aireon — was made on November 19, 2012. The final tranche is scheduled for late 2017, and NAV CANADA’s preferred membership interest could ultimately represent up to 51 percent of the filly diluted equity of Aireon.
The investment in Aireon by ENAV, the Irish Aviation Authority and Naviair will be made in four tranches between 2014 and 2017 as key milestones are met. The financing comes on top of the investments already made by the current joint venture participants, NAV CANADA and Iridium Communications Inc. In 2018, a portion of Iridium’s interest will be redeemed for a payment from Aireon of $120 million to finalize the ownership interests. Upon this redemption, NAV CANADA will hold 51 percent of the fully diluted ownership of Aireon, Enav will hold 12.5 percent, and each of IAA and Naviair will hold 6 percent ownership, with 24.5 percent being retained by Iridium.
The ADS-B payload successfully completed qualification testing for operation in the harsh environment of space. This achievement is a key building block in the deployment of AireonSM and represents a significant milestone in validating that the payload and system design will provide robust reception of ADS-B signals from space.
NATS, the U.K.’s privatized provider of air traffic control services, has signed a 12-year agreement with Aireon to deploy space-based ADS-B. NATS is a charter ANSP of Aireon, working closely with NAV CANADA and the FAA on the technical and operational development of space-based ADS-B services. In this capacity, the three organizations will work on the development of common requirements for the service, including the development of policies, standards and operational procedures.
Aireon will offer a public service to the world’s aviation industry for the locating and tracking of ADS-B equipped aircraft in emergency situations. The Aireon Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking (ALERT) service will allow aviation stakeholders to track any aircraft that is in an apparent alert or distress phase providing them with precise GPS-based location updates in real-time.
Aireon signed a data services agreement with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) to provide space-based ADS-B data for the Singapore FIR. Singapore will be the first ANSP in the Asia Pacific region to adopt space-based ADS-B.
Aireon signed a data services agreement with Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), South Africa’s ANSP. ATNS has decided to implement space-based ADS-B to enable real-time visibility throughout their airspace. Increased visibility, coupled with real-time air traffic surveillance, improves both the safety and efficiency of air travel and gives air traffic control the ability to optimize airspace with more accurate, predicable data.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) granted primary allocation of the 1090 MHz frequency band for the reception by satellite of ADS-B signals from aircraft. The decision, made during the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) in Geneva, Switzerland, protects this essential frequency for real-time flight tracking and global surveillance of aircraft through ADS-B over satellite. This important step will extend air traffic surveillance coverage of equipped aircraft to 100 percent of the earth’s surface – from the 30 percent coverage available today.
Aireon signed a data services agreement with the Dutch Caribbean Air Navigation Service Provider (DC-ANSP), the air traffic services provider for the Curaçao Flight Information Region (FIR). This agreement represents a milestone for the Latin American and Caribbean regions, positioning DC-ANSP as a regional leader in aviation safety and efficiency. This will also allow DC-ANSP to increase flexibility over the cross-regional and intersecting routes they manage and facilitate seamless transitions between neighboring FIRs.
ATNS signed a commercialization agreement with Aireon to establish a framework for facilitating the use of space-based ADS-B in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. The Agreement will leverage ATNS’s leadership role in the SADC as the operator of the regional VSAT network to distribute space-based ADS-B data to remote locations over satellite links, thereby extending the surveillance capabilities to regions where ground-based communications are prohibitive.
This milestone validated Aireon’s end-to-end performance in preparation for on-orbit tests. Aireon ground systems including the Hosted Payload Operation Center (HPOC) and the Aireon Processing and Distribution Center (APD) functionality is verified. Validations also included the ability to command, status and control the payload, and that the APD will perform real-time control of the payload to receive transmissions from ADS-B equipped aircraft. Transmissions received by the payload are routed through Iridium to the HPOC, APD and delivered to NAV CANADA for final verification.
Harris completed production on all ADS-B payloads. The 81 ADS-B payloads were completed ahead of schedule and represent the largest implementation of a hosted payload solution ever achieved. Completion of these payloads represents another milestone toward deploying Aireon’s space-based ADS-B service and enabling real-time air traffic surveillance worldwide.
Aireon signed a contract with the Seychelles Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA), the air traffic services provider in the Seychelles Flight Information Region. Through this agreement, SCAA will gain access to complete surveillance of the Seychelles FIR region, covering an area of approximately 2.63 million square kilometers, a majority of which is oceanic airspace, and borders the flight information regions of Kenya, Somalia, India, Mauritius, Madagascar and Tanzania.
Aireon and FlightAware formed a partnership and will together launch of GlobalBeacon, a solution that will airlines with real-time, global flight tracking, designed to ensure airlines are in compliance with ICAO GADSS recommendations and requirements.
Qatar Airways will be the first airline to adopt GlobalBeacon to meet ICAO GADSS recommendations and requirements.
On Tuesday, June 21st, SpaceX shipped the first Falcon 9 Iridium NEXT satellite dispenser to the Vandenberg Air Force Base launch site in California, and on Monday, June 27th, it was confirmed that the dispenser arrived safely. These events keep the program on schedule and mark significant launch preparation achievements.
Purdue University School of Aeronautics and Astronautics publishes a new report, ‘Environmental Benefits of Space-Based ADS-B’ that analyzes the potential impact of space-based ADS-B technology on global aviation carbon emissions in remote and oceanic airspace. The report, authored by Dr. Karen Marais, indicates that space-based ADS-B technology can prevent approximately 14.3 million metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere from 2020 to 2030.
Aireon, FlightAware and SITAONAIR announce a new partnership to provide SITAONAIR’s airline customers with Aireon’s space-based ADS-B data. SITAONAIR customers will have access to 100% global, real-time flight tracking in 2018 with no new avionics required through SITAONAIR’s AIRCOM® FlightTracker product.
Isavia (Iceland’s Air Navigation Service Provider) will deploy Aireon’s space-based ADS-B service throughout the Reykjavik Oceanic Control Area. In addition to providing enhanced redundancy to existing terrestrial surveillance resources in the southern part of the airspace, the AireonSM service will, for the first time ever, provide real-time surveillance and tracking in the region extending from 70 degrees north to the North Pole.
January 14th, 2017 was the successful first launch and deployment of ten Iridium NEXT satellites hosting Aireon’s space-based ADS-B system. Once in orbit, each satellite will undergo extensive testing by the Iridium team. After approximately 40-60 days, Iridium will hand-off the ADS-B payloads to Aireon for verification of on-orbit technical specifications. Aireon will then conduct rigorous independent testing and validation of the space-based ADS-B system for approximately 60 days. As part of this testing and validation process, Aireon’s ADS-B receivers, which were manufactured by Harris Corporation, will provide air traffic surveillance data through the Aireon network to SDPs at partners NAV CANADA, NATS, ENAV, the Irish Aviation Authority, as well as the FAA.
Aireon announces that they have formally received control from Iridium Communications Inc. of the first ADS-B payload hosted on an Iridium NEXT satellite. To follow, Aireon will begin a rigorous, in-depth testing and validation process, verifying the capability of the ADS-B payloads.
Once the first set of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites are in orbit, thorough testing and validation begins to ensure accuracy, latency, reliability, redundancy and all other factors associated with the payload delivering on expectations.
Once the Aireon payloads have completed initial testing, Aireon will begin to see live data. This will occur during the first quarter of 2017. Aireon’s launch customers will also begin to receive live data for testing, operations and validation purposes through their service delivery points.
Throughout 2016 and early 2017, Aireon customers will also be performing tests to establish the connections between the Aireon network and the ANSP’s ATM system to validate the performance of the space-based ADS-B data.
Thales has officially begun the testing and validation of the Aireon space-based ADS-B data. The start of data validation marks a major milestone for Aireon and Thales‘ efforts to ensure the successful integration of space-based ADS-B into the TopSky–ATC automation platform.
Aireon conducts three separate successful flight tests with NAV Canada, FAA and private vendor Polaris Flight Systems that demonstrate the system’s inflight messaging and receiving capability as comparable to ground-based receivers.
On April 18, SITAONAIR, Aireon and FlightAware announce that Malaysia Airlines is the first customer to enlist in the joint solution for a real-time, space-based flight tracking alerting system delivered by SITAONAIR’s product AIRCOM® FlightTracker. Under the agreement, all Malaysia Airlines aircraft will have access to minute-by-minute, 100% global, flight tracking data.
The second launch of Iridium NEXT satellites doubled the number of in-orbit Aireon hosted-payloads to twenty and commenced shortly after the first ten satellites passed all qualification tests.
A successful third Iridium NEXT launch took place on October 9th, 2017. Thirty total satellites with the Aireon hosted-payload are now in orbit, accounting for nearly half of the new constellation.
Aireon conducts additional separate flight tests with NAV Canada, FAA and private vendor Polaris Flight Systems which further tested and validated the Aireon system.
The fourth launch of Iridium NEXT satellites, carrying the Aireon hosted-payload will officially push the constellation to more than half-complete. Aireon ADS-B receivers installed on each satellite are already transmitting real-time data and tracking aircraft over parts of the globe under their new watch.
With completion of the fourth Iridium NEXT launch and 40 hosted payloads now in orbit, Aireon has received 25 billion ADS-B position report messages.
Aireon signed a data services agreement with Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) to bring real-time air traffic surveillance to high-trafficked, terrestrial African corridors. ASECNA’s member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Centrafrique, Comores, Congo, Côte d’ivoire, Gabon, Guinée Bissau, Guinée Equatoriale, France, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritanie, Niger, Sénégal, Tchad and Togo.
With 50 satellites now in orbit after the fifth launch, the Iridium NEXT constellation will be over seventy percent complete, upon system test validation.
The Aireon ALERT pre-registration portal will launch and allow ANSPs, aircraft operators, regulators and search and rescue organizations to pre-register for the Aireon ALERT service. The service is anticipated to be operational once the Iridium NEXT constellation is complete.
The Ride Share launch (Iridium-RS) will launch five satellites and will share the flight with the twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites, a joint venture between NASA and GFZ. This ride-share deal allows Iridium to increase the number of in-orbit spares.
Successful deployment and validation testing of the seventh launch of Iridium NEXT satellites will bring the new constellation to the cusp of completion. 100% percent of the constellation being launched via SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets will have been deployed.
Final launch to complete the Iridium NEXT constellation! Ten Iridium NEXT satellites are launched via SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and are in orbit accounting for seventy total satellites and four on-orbit spares. Upon successful final testing of the final batch deployed, the Iridium NEXT constellation will be 100 percent operational and Aireon space-based ADS-B will be providing 100 percent real-time global aircraft surveillance.
GlobalBeacon will provide aircraft tracking capabilities starting in 2017, and 1-minute intervals, as the standard in 2018, far outperforming the 15 minute GADSS requirement.
The Aireon service will be live with 100% global coverage.
Aireon ALERT will be fully operational and allow all registered stakeholders to track any aircraft that is in an apparent alert or distress phase.
GlobalBeacon will provide aircraft tracking capabilities in 1-minute intervals, as the standard in 2018, far outperforming the 15 minute GADSS requirement.
NAV CANADA and NATS plan to provide 15 NM longitudinal separation between surveillance identified aircraft flying on the Organized Track System (OTS) in the same direction. Then, later in 2018, 15 NM longitudinal separation will be expanded to aircraft operating off the NAT OTS. The next step will be to allow surveillance identified aircraft to operate on all tracks which do not intersect.
In 2018, Enav, IAA and Naviair will be operational with space-based ADS-B. They are expecting substantial benefits including improved operational efficiency, enhanced safety and the ability to reduce overall costs associated with the current ground-based surveillance infrastructure.