Thales, Spire Global and Essp to Develop a Space-Based Air T
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This news is classified in: Aerospace Aviation Commercial Aircraft Space

Jun 13, 2024

Thales, Spire Global and Essp to Develop a Space-Based Air Traffic Surveillance Service

  • Thales, Spire and ESSP are joining forces to develop a satellite constellation and offer new space-based surveillance services for Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs).
  • The 100+ satellite constellation will provide real-time air traffic surveillance, enhancing aviation safety, sustainability and airspace security.

Thales (Euronext Paris: HO), Spire Global (NYSE: SPIR), and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the goal of introducing a range of innovative global satellite-based surveillance services to the air traffic management (ATM) industry and broader aviation market. These services will be powered by a specialized 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 provision 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 requirements imposed to ATC. The partners will also rely on the Space Alliance* formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio, to identify and implement possible synergies bringing further added value in terms of key-enabling technologies, secured network optimization and sustainable operations and services.

The partners plan to certify, commercialize and start the operation of the service by 2027.

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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,” said Philip Plantholt, general manager of Aviation at Spire. “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.”

 “This innovative satellite-based surveillance service will accelerate the implementation of our new ‘Air Traffic Control as a service’ offering,” said Christian Rivierre, vice president, Airspace Mobility Solutions, Thales. “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 ATM system. Additionally, this new solution will also draw on the competences of Thales Alenia Space satellite-based surveillance systems.”

Charlotte Neyret, chief executive officer of ESSP, said: “Taking the best of three worlds: Space Systems, ATC Systems and ATC Service Provision, is a game-changer for the aviation industry, providing the most valuable solution based on advanced new technologies. Our service is developed driven by users’ needs and expectations to face new service-levels, the challenge of ATC digitization and to support greener and more sustainable air travel. We will provide the full range of ESSP's Space-based CNS expertise to implement and to operate mission-critical services to ensure the highest quality of service to all aviation stakeholders”.

The aviation industry faces critical challenges, with safety, security and achieving climate impact neutrality emerging as top priorities. These challenges have placed significant strain on ATM, particularly due to the absence of a surveillance solution that is high performing, scalable, and economically viable.

The initiative will rely on Thales's global stature in ATM, built upon more than 50 years of terrestrial surveillance experience and the longstanding space technological background of Thales Alenia Space as a world space leader in telecommunications, earth observation, exploration and navigation. With over 175 satellites launched into orbit and nearly a decade of expertise in developing and operating ADS-B payloads, Spire holds a unique position within the New Space technology landscape. The approach is bolstered by ESSP's credentials as a certified space-based Navigation and Communication service provider, the consortium possesses the ideal resources to tackle these ambitious objectives.

The new end-to-end 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, ensuring the system offers the latest and most advanced technology. This evolutionary roadmap approach ensures that end users' operational needs are consistently met with the latest advancements.

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 novel system will provide a resilient solution for tracking aircraft that cannot be impacted by vulnerabilities with GNSS/GPS such as interference or outages. The expected follow-on of a successful demonstration will be the commercialization of a second generation, highly resilient service — opening the door to holistic infrastructure optimization strategies for ANSPs by the end of the coming decade.