Partners to develop a space-based air traffic surveillance system

Thales, Spire Global and European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP) have partnered to develop a range of global satellite-based surveillance services for the air traffic management (ATM) and aviation industries.


The surveillance service will be powered by a 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, while Thales will provision the ground air traffic management system and the service supervision infrastructure.

ESSP will manage the certification and 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.

In addition, the Space Alliance – formed by Thales Alenia Space and Telespazio – will identify and implement possible synergies in terms of key-enabling technologies, secured network optimisation and sustainable operations and services.

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

“This innovative satellite-based surveillance service will accelerate the implementation of our new ‘Air Traffic Control as a service’ offering,” Christian Rivierre, vice president of Airspace Mobility Solutions, Thales, said in a statement.

“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.”

The aviation industry faces critical challenges, with safety, security and achieving climate impact neutrality emerging as top priorities. The partners said that 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 new end-to-end system aims to meet rigorous requirements, including latency, coverage and revisit standards, set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and aviation authorities to be certified for air traffic surveillance.

The partners added that the constellation's satellites are designed to be replenished every five years, ensuring the system offers the latest and most advanced technology.

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 aims to provide a 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 commercialisation of a second-generation service.

Visit our jobs site to find out about some of the latest career opportunities at industry's biggest employers