Harris Corporation will provide 81 ADS-B 1090 Extended Squitter (ES) receiver payloads to Aireon LLC, to be hosted on the Iridium Next satellite constellation under a five-year contract that will reportedly transform air traffic management (ATM) with a global satellite-based aircraft tracking system. Iridium Next is the next-generation satellite constellation planned to start launching in 2015 by Iridium Communications Inc. Aireon is a planned joint venture between Iridium and Nav Canada.
The Harris contract for 81 ADS-B payloads reportedly 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. By sharing Iridium’s on-orbit capability and ground infrastructure, these commercially hosted payloads illustrate, the company claims, how to avoid the cost of building and launching separate satellites – reducing the expense and time required to get mission capabilities into space for government and private organisations alike through a public-private partnership model.
Currently, the ground-based systems primarily use radar to provide aircraft surveillance. As part of the global ATM modernisation, air navigation service providers (ANSPs) such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Nav Canada are implementing new Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems that requires all airplanes to be equipped with on-board ADS-B transmitters to broadcast GPS position and other useful data. However, ADS-B networks are limited by the ground-based ADS-B towers which collect this data for the ANSPs. The ground-based ATM infrastructure cannot monitor flights over oceans or remote regions of the globe where placing an ADS-B tower is not feasible.
Under the agreement, Harris will supply a satellite-based ADS-B payload to perform the ADS-B receiver function from the Iridium Next satellite constellation, which consists of 66 low Earth-orbiting satellites, six on-orbit spares and nine ground spares. The payload is based on AppStar, Harris’ reconfigurable payload platform. The Harris supplied payload will receive the ADS-B messages containing position and other information from each airplane and stream it to Aireon’s ground segment, which will then provide it to the ATM systems of the ANSPs to determine precise aircraft location in near real-time. This approach will reportedly allow more optimised air traffic control by ANSPs anywhere in the world. The availability of ADS-B information in near real time at a high update rate, and the reliability of satellite-based aircraft tracking will enable, the company claims, air traffic controllers to safely reduce the mandated separation between aircraft and will allow aircraft to fly more directly from one point to another over remote areas.
“Iridium Next, with its global constellation of satellites, will be recognised as the premier hosted payload platform. This programme and the strategic alliance with Iridium secure Harris’ position as a major player in this emerging market, while providing exciting opportunities to expand our offerings to other customers,” said Sheldon Fox, group president, Harris Government Communications Systems. “This programme leverages our leadership in space systems and reconfigurable payload platforms, and also enables us to help the FAA and air navigation service providers around the world meet their modernisation goals.
“Aireon has selected the premier leader in the industry by choosing Harris to supply this vital service to such a ground-breaking programme,” said Don Thoma, president and CEO, Aireon. “The combined, powerful offering our collective organisations will offer to the global air traffic community will transform air travel.”