On 25 June 2017, the second batch of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites with Aireon space-based ADS-B surveillance and tracking payloads was launched into low Earth orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Each new satellite carries Harris Corporation ADS-B receiver equipment to deliver real-time global air traffic surveillance and flight tracking.
“One of the most exciting aspects around Iridium NEXT is the technology that will enable space-based aircraft surveillance delivered by Aireon,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “The only way to provide 100% global aircraft tracking and surveillance, in real time, is through the Iridium network and the crosslink functionality provided by our satellites … We’ve always looked for things nobody else can do, that we can do uniquely from interconnected satellites in low earth orbit.”
Iridium set up Aireon in 2012 as a joint venture with Nav Canada. Three other air navigation service providers (ANSPs) joined as equity partners – and future users of the system - in 2014: ENAV (Italy), the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), and Naviair (Denmark).
The Aireon service will not only offer full global ADS-B surveillance by 2018, including in oceanic airspace and remote areas, but it also provides a backup capability and additional gap-filling surveillance. Aireon CEO Don Thoma said the first launch on 14 January 2017 “provided us with eight operational payloads that we’ve been using quite extensively with our launch customers”.From these first eight active payloads, covering just 12% of global airspace, Aireon has received more than 1 billion ADS-B position reports per month from aircraft. “It’s very historic – when we show this to the air traffic control community, there is a lot of hope for what this can do,” Thoma said. Each individual payload undergoes detailed testing and evaluation.
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