Thales, Spire and ESSP to develop air traffic surveillance constellation

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun12,2024

SAN FRANCISCO –Thales, Spire Global and the European Satellite Services Provider announced a memorandum of cooperation June 13 to develop a satellite constellation dedicated to air traffic surveillance.  

The constellation of more than 100 satellites will collect aircraft Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) messages and quickly relay them to ground stations. The partners aim to begin providing commercial services from the new constellation in 2027.

“This innovative satellite-based surveillance service will accelerate the implementation of our new ‘Air Traffic Control as a service’ offering,” Christian Rivierre, Thales Airspace Mobility Solutions vice president, said in a statement. “It will play a crucial role in shaping the future of the skies, serving as a vital facilitator for trajectory-based operations and laying the foundation for a safer, more environmentally friendly, and cost-efficient” air traffic management system.

The agreement calls for Spire to develop the space segment, from designing and building satellites and payloads to establishing a ground network and collecting data. Thales will deliver the air traffic management system.

The European Satellite Services Provider, formed by regional air navigation service providers, will manage the certification and delivery of air traffic surveillance services and perform round-the-clock operations.

The Space Alliance, formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, will work with the constellation partners to identify key-enabling technologies, support network optimization and establish sustainable operations.  

8-Second Updates

“Our service is developed driven by users’ needs and expectations to face new service-levels, the challenge of [air traffic control] digitization and to support greener and more sustainable air travel,” ESSP Chief Executive Charlotte Neyret said in a statement. “We will provide the full range of ESSP’s space-based [communication, navigation and surveillance] expertise to implement and to operate mission-critical services to ensure the highest quality of service to all aviation stakeholders”. 

The new low-Earth orbit constellation will provide information on the position of civilian aircraft around the world every 8 seconds with a latency of 1.5 seconds. Low latency and frequent updates are required for International Civil Aviation Organization-certified air traffic surveillance systems.

“The birth of a satellite constellation fully dedicated to serving the demanding needs of air traffic management, air domain awareness and national security is a groundbreaking development for the aviation industry,” Philip Plantholt, Spire Aviation general manager, said in a statement. “Through our strategic partnership with Thales and ESSP, we are poised to offer the first real alternative to the aging systems that exist today and embark on a journey towards even more advanced space-based solutions for aviation in the years to come.”  

ESA Contract

In addition to the latest announcement, Spire announced is working with Thales and ESSP on Eurialo, a project funded by the European Space Agency. Through Eurialo, the partners intend to develop a civil aviation tracking constellation that does not rely on global navigation satellite systems.

Commercial aircraft periodically report their locations through ADS-B transmitters, which rely on global navigation satellite services. The latest generation of air traffic surveillance systems augment GNSS information.  

Under the 16 million euro ESA contract announced in 2023, the Spire-led group will design and demonstrate the viability of a constellation that determines the location of aircraft based on the time of arrival of radio frequency signals.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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