ASECNA launches study to supply satellite navigation services

The Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) has tasked Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between France’s Thales and Italy’s Leonardo, with carrying out a preliminary design study as part of its programme to develop a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS).

ASECNA’s SBAS is based on EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service). In line with the agency’s strategic plan, it aims to enhance navigation and surveillance operations during all flight phases, as well as significantly and sustainably improve flight safety and efficiency in the areas under its responsibility.

Starting in 2021-22, these services will improve the positioning performance of existing satellite navigation systems, such as GPS or Galileo. The new system will improve precision down to within a metre, integrity, availability and continuity, which is essential for safety-related operations.

The study should enable countries belonging to ASECNA to define the best system architecture to support the delivery of SBAS services and to ensure transparency during the development, deployment and operational phases. The study is being financed by a grant from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund (EU-AITF), through a financing agreement with the French Development Agency (AFD).

The European Commission and GSA (European GNSS Agency) will provide technical assistance as part of an international agreement between ASECNA and the European Union, also including the French space agency CNES (Centre National des Etudes Spatiales).

The design study to be carried out by Thales Alenia Space will last for 18 months. During this period, the airlines associated with this programme will be able to test a pre-operational service.

“Today’s contract signature marks the culmination of  ASECNA and Thales Alenia Space’s work on SBAS over the last few years, and we are very pleased,” said Jean Loïc Galle, president and chief executive of Thales Alenia Space. “Following the KASS project in South Korea, this latest export success for a complex and powerful satellite navigation system is the result of our involvement in satnav programmes in Europe right from the outset, in 1996. ASECNA will be able to draw on our 20 plus years of experience to ensure passenger safety, clearly reflecting our watchword, ‘Space for Life’.”

Mohamed Moussa, director general of ASECNA, said: “This contract marks a milestone in ASECNA’s SBAS programme, a key catalyst for Africa’s ‘Single Sky’, which should eventually enable us to improve landing safety and routing flexibility and efficiency, while making isolated regions more accessible without requiring any additional technical and human resources at airports. It also illustrates our progress and shows ASECNA’s ability to embrace and apply the latest innovative technologies, for the greater benefit of inclusive economic and social development in Africa.”

ASECNA ensures safety in air navigation by covering an airspace surface area of about 16,500,000 sq km that is divided into six flight information regions as defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization. In addition, ASECNA develops solutions related to airport management, studies and aeronautical infrastructure realizations, aeronautical equipment maintenance, calibration of air navigation instruments and training dedicated to the civil aviation.

Its 18 member are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Ivory Coast, France, Gabon, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad and Togo.