Last Friday’s launch of Aireon space-based ADS-B receiver payloads installed in Iridium Next satellites carried aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket brings the total number of these payloads in orbit to 50. When the payloads from this fifth launch come online, the completed system will provide operators with global, near-real-time air traffic flight-following coverage via via FlightAware. System testing will soon be under way by airlines and non-scheduled operators flying over oceanic, remote, and polar routes.
With eight-second interval position reporting to air traffic control, the Aerion system will more than satisfy the 15-minute interval required by new ICAO and EASA regulations on routes where continuous ATC coverage is not available. Effective November 8, the new standard will be formalized as ICAO Amendment 39 to “Annex 6–Operation of Aircraft, Part I.” The requirement is the outcome of recommendations stemming from the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, China, on March 8, 2014.
McLean, Virginia-based Aireon’s ADS-B surveillance system is hosted on Iridium’s Next satellite constellation. A total of 81 Iridium Next satellites are being built, all of which will carry the Aireon payload. The plan calls for the deployment of 75 satellites, with nine serving as on-orbit spares and the remaining six as ground spares. The constellation is planned for completion by year-end. To communicate ADS-B information to the satellite receivers, aircraft will need to be equipped with ADS-B system antennas mounted on the top of the fuselage.