FAA searching for space-based ADS-B provider

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The US FAA has issued a market survey to identify vendors who could provide a space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) service for remote mountainous areas in the US and in oceanic regions starting in 2018.

Such a system would augment the FAA's domestic ground-based ADS-B infrastructure, set to be operational as early as 2013. The new system would complement the ground-based system with real-time surveillance of aircraft in remote or oceanic areas independent of radar or infrequent position reporting by voice or ACARS data messaging over satellite or ground links.

"As part of FAA's ADS-B NextGen program, the Surveillance and Broadcast Services Office is considering enhancing ADS-B service to include surveillance in oceanic and remote mountainous airspace and other airspace as required currently outside the detection limits of land-based surveillance equipment (non-radar airspace), thereby increasing safety and efficiency and reducing separation minima," the FAA said in a 22 November notice.

One possible option for the service would be through a new Iridium NEXT constellation which should be in place by 2018. Iridium plans to begin building the constellation in 2015 using SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicles. The constellation is to have 66 operational spacecraft and six on-orbit spares.

Satellites, built by Thales Alenia, would include ADS-B receivers that pick up ADS-B data transmitted from aircraft and relay the surveillance data to ground stations which then would route the data to the FAA.

Alaskan company ADS-B Technologies also has a network the company says could provide the service based on a constellation of Globalstar satellites that will be operational in 2013.