FAA on hunt for space-based ADS-B services

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking potential suppliers of a space-based automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) service for remote mountainous areas in the US and oceanic regions.
The system would augment the FAA´s domestic ground-based ADS-B infrastructure from 2018, complementing ground-based system data with real-time surveillance of aircraft in remote or oceanic areas.
This would be independent of radar or infrequent position reporting by voice or ACARS data messaging over satellite or ground links.
The US is mandating that all aircraft be equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) from 2020 so they will be able to automatically report their satellite-based position and other data to ground stations and other aircraft. By monitoring ADS-B reports from space, the system’s reach can be extended out over the oceans allowing the separation between aircraft to be reduced, increasing route capacity – as well as provide a back-up to the ground-based systems.
“As part of FAA´s ADS-B NextGen program, the Surveillance and Broadcast Services Office is considering enhancing ADS-B service to include surveillance in oceanic and remote mountainous airspace and other airspace as required currently outside the detection limits of land-based surveillance equipment (non-radar airspace), thereby increasing safety and efficiency and reducing separation minima,” said the FAA.
The FAA added that the results of this survey will be used to develop an appropriate acquisition strategy.
A possible contender would be the new Iridium NEXT constellation which should be in place by 2017. The Thales Alenia-built constellation will have 66 operational spacecraft and six on-orbit spares and will feature ADS-B receivers.
“We’ve been working hosted-payload opportunities for Iridium Next for three to four years and, out of the blue, air traffic monitoring came up about four months ago,” CEO Matt Desch told Aviation Week magazine in March.
Alaskan company ADS-B Technologies also has a network which it says could provide the service based on a constellation of Globalstar satellites that will be operational in 2013.
In July, the company announced that its ALAS system will use Globalstar’s network of satellites and ground stations to provide both ADS-B surveillance and communications services for NextGen air traffic control.