Aireon, a joint venture involving Iridium Communications and Nav Canada, the country’s private-sector civil air navigation service provider, has announced a plan to provide free real-time global emergency flight tracking for any ADS-B equipped aircraft. The Aireon Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking service will be available to authorized search-and-rescue operations, soon after the completion of the Iridium Next satellite constellation in 2017.
Satellite-based surveillance developer Aireon will provide a free emergency tracking system for aircraft when the satellite constellation it will use is launched and operating, as expected, in 2017. Aireon announced the service on September 22, saying the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year makes global emergency tracking “essential.”
Aireon’s surveillance system will use automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) receivers contained as hosted payloads on new Iridium Next satellites to send position reports to subscribing air navigation service providers over oceanic and remote regions of the Earth beyond radar coverage. Iridium plans to launch the second-generation constellation of 66 low-Earth-orbit satellites between 2015 and 2017.
The Aireon Aircraft Locating and Emergency Response Tracking service, branded as “Aireon Alert,” will be provided “as a public service to the aviation community, free of charge,” the company said. Operating from a 24-hour emergency call center, it will provide authorized search-and-rescue organizations with the location and last flight track of any 1090-MHz ADS-B transponder-equipped aircraft flying in airspace without other surveillance. Airlines will not have to equip with new avionics.
“The existing gaps in surveillance, particularly in cases of lost aircraft, became abundantly clear this past year,” said John Crichton, president and CEO of Nav Canada, an Aireon joint-venture partner. “The tragic disappearance of Flight MH370 prompted worldwide urgency to look for solutions. Aireon’s response amounts to a global public service, offering Aireon Alert universally with no fee.”
Aireon is a joint venture of Iridium Communications and ANSPs Nav Canada, Italy’s ENAV, the Irish Aviation Authority and Denmark’s Naviair. Nav Canada will acquire a 51-percent interest in the venture by late 2017.
A competing ADS-B-based surveillance system is also progressing. Earlier this month, ADS-B Technologies and satellite communications provider Globalstar announced the completion of the latest flight demonstration of its space-based ADS-B Link Augmentation System (ALAS), tracking a round-trip flight between Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. The test “marked the first time that a flight demonstration tested a dual-link (1090 MHz and Universal Access Transceiver) space-based ADS-B system in all environments and for extended periods of time,” the companies said. “The flight proved that the 1090ES and UAT versions of the ALAS technology work continuously, reporting the aircraft’s position every second during a flight of nearly 7,000 miles.”
With the continuing strains on the U.S. national budget and the possibility that the Administration’s sequestration program could last for several more years, Pentagon planners are said to be worrying that the costs of the future GPS III system could become out of reach, despite its major advances and the need to have modernized replacement satellites ready to be deployed as the orbital lives of current satellites end.
Honeywell’s latest iteration of its Iridium satellite-based communication and aircraft tracking product, Sky Connect Tracker III, has been joined with its Zing health and usage monitoring system (HUMS) to create an integrated system that can now also send alerts of potential maintenance problems back to base. The communication part of Sky Connect Tracker III provides concurrent voice and text, along with flight tracking. The system uses the Iridium satellite network, meaning it works where Iridium is available, which is anywhere in the world.
At the NBAA Convention last month, Greenwich AeroGroup of Wichita offered live demonstrations of the Iridium OpenPort Aero, described as “the only aviation broadband solution that works everywhere in the world, including remote, oceanic and polar regions,” using Iridium’s worldwide satellite network.
Now that Iridium has successfully completed the financing for its next-generation satellite constellation, called Iridium Next, the McLean, Va., firm is looking ahead to the fun part: building and launching an all-new network of dozens of cross-linked communications satellites.
Iridium Communications of McLean, Va., last month placed a multibillion-dollar order with Thales Alenia Space of France for 81 communications satellites needed to upgrade its global satellite communications network. The $2.1 billion deal includes 66 low-earth-orbit satellites for the Iridium Next constellation, with the remainder to serve as spares.
Iridium Communications of McLean, Va., has ordered 81 satellites from Thales Alenia Space of France to upgrade its global satellite network. The $2.1 billion deal includes 66 low-earth-orbit satellites for the operational constellation, with the rest to serve as spares. The first satellite launch is scheduled for the first quarter of 2015.
Iridium said it has begun taking steps to replace a lost communication satellite with one of eight in-orbit spares. The collision of a 2,000-pound decommissioned Russian satellite with the smaller Iridium craft on February 10 created a swirling field of debris but left only a tiny gap in Iridium’s 66-satellite constellation, resulting in brief outages for some customers.
Inmarsat last month began repositioning its I-4 satellite constellation in an effort aimed at providing full global SwiftBroadband coverage and improving network performance. Moving the three I-4 satellites into new orbital slots 24,000 miles in space is a complicated task, but officials say the result will be worth the effort.
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