MCLEAN, Va., — Aireon announced today the successful fourth launch and deployment of its space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) payloads hosted onboard the Iridium® NEXT satellite constellation. At 5:27 PM PST, a flight-proven SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, marking the halfway point of the Aireon system deployment and bringing the total number of Aireon payloads in orbit to 40.
“This is a huge achievement. With 40 payloads in orbit, we’re officially approaching two-thirds of the way to being operational,” said Don Thoma, chief executive officer, Aireon. “As we continue to deploy our space-based system, we witness greater and greater performance from our service. We couldn’t be more thrilled to go into 2018 celebrating this milestone.”
Prior to the deployment of these 10 payloads, the Aireon system was already receiving approximately 6 billion position reports per month. The position reports produced by the system have also received additional validation testing from several successful test flights with both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA.
Among the surprises discovered during the ongoing testing and validation process, is the payload coverage area, or “footprint”, being substantially larger than initially expected. This results in greater coverage areas per payload and establishes increased redundancy across the system.
“Every Aireon payload has an independent chance to receive a message from an ADS-B transponder,” says Dr. Michael Garcia, director of systems engineering at Aireon. “The larger the payload footprint, the larger the overlap between areas of coverage. The result is a highly validated aircraft position report.”
The Aireon service is hosted by the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, which will consist of 66 low-earth orbit interconnected satellites. A total of 81 Iridium NEXT satellites are being built, all of which will have the Aireon payload onboard. Currently, 75 satellites are planned to be deployed with nine serving as on-orbit spares and the remaining six as ground spares. The constellation is planned for completion in mid-2018.