Collins Aerospace has begun testing of the first aviation application for Iridium’s new higher-speed Certus satcom service. According to Collins, this test was the first Certus aviation low-gain transmission. The company plans to offer Certus hardware, including two types of antennas, in 2022.
The L-band Iridium Next satellite constellation, completed early last year, promises much higher speeds than the classic Iridium network. Flying in low-earth orbit, the Iridium satellites cover the entire planet, so there are no dead spots as is the case with most higher-orbit Ku- and Ka-band geostationary satellite networks.
The airborne hardware includes a Satcom Data Unit (SDU), SDU Configuration Module, and an antenna. A smaller low-gain antenna will permit network speeds up to 176 kbps and a larger high-gain antenna speeds up to 704 kbps (less than 1 Mbps). The classic Iridium service had a maximum speed of 2.4 kbps. Ku- and Ka-band satellite service can deliver far higher speeds—up to 50 Mbps—but antennas and equipment are generally larger and because of the high speeds, service charges are higher.
Collins engineers conducted the testing in a lab with equipment, including the low-gain antenna, communicating directly with the Iridium satellites. According to Collins, it was the first aviation supplier to pass the mandatory Iridium antenna simulator testing and the first to make an aviation equipment transmission to the orbiting network.