SpaceX Wins, Aireon Gets FAA Attention


SpaceX launched two rockets in three days and brought both back to barges on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. On Friday, company CEO Elon Musk wasn’t sure he’d get his rocket back because it was going to endure the hottest and fastest re-entry to date. “Rocket is extra toasty and hit the deck hard (used almost all of the emergency crush core), but otherwise good,” he tweeted. On Sunday, bad weather caused more angst but the company was able to reposition the barge and stick the landing.

The launch on Friday sent Bulgaria’s first communications satellite into orbit from Cape Canaveral and on Sunday, SpaceX took 10 more Iridium satellites to space. That’s 20 of 75 that will be launched to form a high-powered constellation that will have a significant impact on aviation. One of the big clients for those satellites is Aireon, a global flight tracking and air traffic control system that is expected to revolutionize the way air traffic is managed. Nav Canada is the managing partner of that system. The FAA has continued to deploy and mandate compliance with its NextGen system but it’s sniffing around Aireon and taking part in tests with the first satellites that were deployed in January. “We’ve conducted flight tests with the FAA and Nav Canada, which were designed to really push our system’s limits, while also helping to fine-tune its capabilities,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. “We’re on a path to revolutionizing how the world sees the skies, and with each launch come one step closer to making it a global reality.”