Aireon selects Harris to provide ADS-B receiver payloads for Iridium NEXT satellites


WASHINGTON, 16 Aug. 2012. Harris Corp. (NYSE:HRS) won a five-year contract from Aireon LLC to provide 81 ADS-B 1090 Extended Squitter (ES) receiver payloads, to be hosted on the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation. Iridium NEXT is intended to transform air traffic management (ATM) with a global satellite-based aircraft tracking system.

The Iridium NEXT next-generation satellite constellation is planned to start launching in 2015 by Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM). Aireon is a joint venture between Iridium and NAV CANADA.

The Harris contract for 81 ADS-B payloads is being called the largest implementation of a hosted payload solution to date.

ADS-B receiver payloads, to be mounted on each Iridium NEXT satellite, will operate independently and perform the air traffic surveillance function separately from the main mission of the spacecraft.

ADS-B payload power will come from the main satellite bus and will be designed to work with other sub-systems, such as thermal management or communications systems. By sharing Iridium's on-orbit capability and ground infrastructure, these commercially hosted payloads illustrate how to avoid the cost of building and launching separate satellites, thereby reducing the expense and time required to put mission capabilities into space for government and private organizations via a public-private partnership model, says a representative.

Ground-based systems primarily use radar to provide aircraft surveillance. As part of the global ATM modernization, air navigation service providers (ANSPs), such as the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NAV CANADA, are implementing new Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) systems. On-board ADS-B transmitters broadcast GPS position and other useful data; yet, ADS-B networks are limited by ground-based ADS-B towers, which collect this data for the ANSPs. The ground-based ATM infrastructure cannot monitor flights over oceans or remote regions of the globe where placing an ADS-B tower is not feasible, adds the representative.

Harris will supply a satellite-based ADS-B payload to perform the ADS-B receiver function from the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation, which consists of 66 low Earth-orbiting satellites, six on-orbit spares, and nine ground spares. The payload is based on AppStar , Harris' reconfigurable payload platform. The Harris supplied payload will receive ADS-B messages containing position and other information from each airplane and stream it to Aireon's ground segment, which will then provide it to the ATM systems of the ANSPs to determine precise aircraft location in near real-time.

This approach will allow optimized air traffic control by ANSPs anywhere in the world, says a representative. The availability of ADS-B information in near real time at a high update rate, and the reliability of satellite-based aircraft tracking will enable air traffic controllers to reduce the mandated separation between aircraft and allow aircraft to fly more directly from one point to another over remote areas.

Harris and Iridium have entered into a broader strategic relationship to pursue other business opportunities requiring advanced communications solutions. The Iridium global communications constellation, coupled with Harris' handheld radios and communications infrastructure, are well suited for customers in the public safety, defense, and maritime markets.

"This program leverages our leadership in space systems and reconfigurable payload platforms, and also enables us to help the FAA and air navigation service providers around the world meet their modernization goals," says Sheldon Fox, group president, Harris Government Communications Systems.

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