US and European aerospace partners are aiming to develop a new global air traffic surveillance system featuring a dedicated constellation of over 100 satellites.

The companies – US-based space data specialist Spire Global, French firm Thales, and European Satellite Services Provider – intend to certify the service and commence operations by 2027.

It will be based on collecting ADS-B transmissions from aircraft, and relaying this data back to ground stations.

ADS-B provides a means of conveying a flight’s position when the aircraft is outside of conventional radar coverage, and space-based ADS-B expands its potential by removing need for line-of-sight communication.

Spire Global will develop the space segment – focusing on satellite and payload manufacture, and data collection – while Thales will provide the ground-based segment of the air traffic management system.

“Through our strategic partnership…we are poised to offer the first real alternative to the aging systems that exist today,” says Spire general manager of aviation Philip Plantholt.

He describes the initiation of a dedicated air traffic satellite constellation as a “groundbreaking development” for the sector.


Source: Eurocontrol

Use of space-based ADS-B removes line-of-sight restrictions on air traffic surveillance

Thales says the surveillance system will be a “vital facilitator” for future trajectory-based flight operations.

Its air mobility solutions vice-president, Christian Rivierre, adds that it will provide a “safer, more environmentally-friendly, and cost-efficient” air traffic management system.

The third partner, ESSP, provides pan-European space-based navigation, surveillance and communication services, including ADS-B and datalink.

It already provides the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, EGNOS, which augments satellite-based positioning information to increase its accuracy.

ESSP will manage the certification and the delivery of the new air traffic surveillance system, and carry out operational and supervisory services.

Chief executive Charlotte Neyret says the system is “driven by users’ needs and expectations” to address demands for new service levels, digitisation, and sustainability in air transport.

Thales says the current air traffic management system is under “significant strain”, citing the “absence” of a surveillance system which offers high performance and scalability while being economically viable.

It says the new constellation’s satellites will be replenished every five years to enable continuous upgrading and ensure it offers the latest technology to users.