Thales, Spire, and ESSA Join Forces to Develop Satellite-Based Air Traffic Surveillance System

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Insider Brief:

  • Thales, Spire Global, and the European Satellite Services Provider have teamed up to develop a satellite-based surveillance system.
  • The trio signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to develop and deploy a new constellation of over 100 satellites.
  • The initiative aims to launch and operate the system by 2027.
  • In addition to the initial constellation, the partnership will work on developing a system that can geolocate aircraft positions in real-time without relying on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS.

 

Thales, Spire Global, and the European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) have teamed up to develop a satellite-based surveillance system for the aviation sector. This collaboration aims to address pressing challenges in air traffic management (ATM), including the need for improved safety, security, and environmental sustainability.

The trio signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to develop and deploy a new constellation of over 100 satellites as announced by Thales. These satellites will capture Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) signals from aircraft and relay them back to Earth in real-time. The project aims to revolutionize how air traffic is monitored globally.

Spire Global will spearhead the project’s space segment, which involves designing the system, building the satellites, and managing the ground control and data collection operations. Thales will handle the ground-based air traffic management systems and service supervision infrastructure. ESSP will be responsible for certifying the service and ensuring it meets the stringent real-time, safety-critical requirements for air traffic control.

The initiative aims to launch and operate the system by 2027. It seeks to provide a scalable, high-performance, and cost-effective surveillance solution. Thales, with its over 50 years of experience in terrestrial surveillance and its partnership with Thales Alenia Space, brings a wealth of expertise to the project. Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, members of the Space Alliance, will support the project by providing key technologies and ensuring optimized, secure network operations and services. Spire’s extensive experience with ADS-B payloads and its position in the New Space technology sector further strengthen the collaboration. ESSP’s role as a certified provider of space-based navigation and communication services will be crucial for ensuring compliance with international aviation standards.

The new system will meet rigorous standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and other aviation authorities. These standards include requirements for latency, coverage, and revisit times necessary for certified air traffic surveillance. The satellites are designed to be replenished every five years, ensuring that the system remains up-to-date with the latest technology.

In addition to the initial constellation, the partnership will work on developing a system that can geolocate aircraft positions in real-time without relying on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as GPS. This innovation will create a more resilient solution for tracking aircraft, immune to GNSS vulnerabilities like interference or outages. The successful demonstration of this system is expected to pave the way for a second-generation, highly resilient service by the end of the next decade.

Image credit: Thales

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