ICG, Cobham certify dual-use Sora satcom

 - April 30, 2010, 11:21 AM

International Communications Group (ICG) and Cobham Antenna Systems have been granted an FAA supplemental type certificate (STC) for a dual-network satcom system named Sora that offers both Iridium and Inmarsat SwiftBroadband voice and data services worldwide. The first Sora (the Japanese word for “sky”) system was recently installed and certified aboard a Gulfstream G200. Gulfstream, Cobham and ICG cooperated to obtain the STC for the system, providing the basis for installation on a variety of business jets.

Certification flight testing was conducted from Gulfstream’s Dallas maintenance center on April 7. During a flight of less than two hours over north central Texas the Sora system performed as expected, said Jeff Saucedo, ICG’s vice president of OEM sales. STC issuance took place later that week. The Sora system was operated continuously during taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise as high as FL400, descent and landing, demonstrating maximum SwiftBroadband data rates of 332 kilobits per second (uncompressed) and maintaining continuous Iridium voice communication capability, Saucedo noted. “Some Inmarsat SwiftBroadband service providers offer compression. Once we get a clear definition of compression and average through-put, we will have a better idea of the data rates” customers can expect to achieve in flight.

ICG and Cobham jointly developed the Sora package, first announced at the 2009 NBAA Convention. Sora integrates ICG’s NxtLink 220A Iridium system and NxtMail e-mail server with a Cobham Inmarsat SwiftBroadband terminal. This combination is designed to enable Wi-Fi devices such as Blackberry, iPhone and personal computers to operate on the high-speed SwiftBroadband channel, while the cabin and crew communicate using Iridium’s worldwide voice service. Additionally, the flight crew can use a dedicated Iridium channel for FIS/Acars safety and tracking messaging and have the use of a priority voice channel to communicate with ATC and flight operations personnel.

“Now that the first installation of Sora has been completed, and an STC with PMA [parts manufacturing authorization] has been secured, the project moves from development status to a full production program,” Saucedo said. “We can begin delivering hardware to customers as soon as their aircraft can be scheduled into an installation facility.” Sora is the smallest and lightest Iridium/ SwiftBroadband combination satcom system on the market, he said.

“Having an STC is an important benefit to both customers and installation facilities, because it expedites the installation and certification process,” Saucedo added. “But of even greater interest is the value that Sora offers. It’s priced at around $150,000 [suggested list price] and increases the productivity, convenience, flexibility and safety of flight operations through reliable, redundant communication options. The installation on a G200 is just the first of an expansive list of aircraft for which it is extremely well suited.”

A fully certified Sora system will be available for delivery to aircraft OEMs later this month, with deliveries to ICG dealers beginning shortly thereafter.
ICG, based in Newport News, Va., provides a line of aeronautical communication systems featuring satellite-based global voice and data services and equipment for both cabin environments and flight deck operations.