Thales, Spire and ESSP to develop space-based air traffic surveillance service

Thales, Spire Global, and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the goal of introducing a range of global satellite-based surveillance services to the air traffic management (ATM) industry and broader aviation market. These services will be powered by a specialised constellation of over 100 satellites collecting Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) messages broadcast from aircraft and transmitting the data back to Earth in real time.

Spire will develop the space segment, including system design, building the satellites and payloads, ground control and data collection. Thales will provide the ground air traffic management system and the service supervision infrastructure. ESSP will manage the certification and the delivery of the service for air traffic surveillance purposes and perform H24 operation and supervision, ensuring the compliance with real-time, safety-critical ATC requirements. The partners will also rely on the Space Alliance, formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, to identify and implement possible synergies relating to key-enabling technologies, secured network optimisation and sustainable operations and services.

The partners plan to certify, commercialise and start the operation of the service by 2027. The new system will meet the rigorous requirements, including latency, coverage and revisit standards, set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and aviation authorities to be certified for air traffic surveillance.

The constellation’s satellites are designed to be replenished every five years to ensure that end users’ operational needs are consistently met with the latest technology.

In parallel to building the initial constellation, the companies will design and demonstrate a system that goes beyond ADS-B to geolocate the position of aircraft in real time, without relying on GNSS/GPS satellites. This will provide a method for tracking aircraft that cannot be impacted by vulnerabilities with GNSS/GPS such as interference or outages. 

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