Space-Based Tracking System Launches In 2017

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A joint venture by several air navigation services to provide space-based air traffic control of aircraft flying beyond radar range could conceivably make it a lot harder to lose flights like MH370. Nav Canada will be the majority shareholder and providers in Denmark, Ireland and Italy along with satellite company Iridium will own the rest of Aireon when it becomes operational in 2017. The company will attach gear to receive ADS-B signals from aircraft to 66 satellites in the Iridium Next constellation. When it's complete, it will provide global coverage and be able to create radar-like images of traffic in areas, including the world's oceans, that don't have radar coverage. 

The first implementation of the system will be over the busy polar and trans-Atlantic routes that Nav Canada has responsibility for. Because the track and progress of every flight will be visible to controllers, the spacing of aircraft can be tightened up considerably and the routes can be made more fuel efficient. As equity partners, Ireland, Italy and Denmark will get next crack at implementation but soon the service will be opened up to agencies all over the world. The FAA is expected to become a customer as is NATS in the U.K. “By providing the capability to continuously track aircraft anywhere in the world, Aireon is poised to transform the aviation industry," Aireon CEO Don Thoma told Spacenews.