Civil Aviation
Micro-satellite paints big picture of global air traffic
Micro-satellite paints big picture of global air traffic

| Staff writer 321 mots

Micro-satellite paints big picture of global air traffic

The European Space Agency’s GomX-3 CubeSat has completed its planned six-month technology demonstration mission, testing space-based reception of signals from commercial aircraft and building a detailed map of global aviation traffic.

Built for ESA by GomSpace in Denmark, the GomX-3 CubeSat was ejected from the International Space Station on 5 October 2015, along with a Danish student satellite. “Small, low-cost CubeSats make ideal platforms for rapidly flight testing experimental technologies,” explains Roger Walker, overseeing ESA’s technology CubeSat effort. GomX-3 is ESA’s first technology CubeSat to fly.

The satellite detects Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS–B) signals regularly broadcast from aircraft, giving flight information such as speed, position and altitude. ADS-B is a new surveillance technology that lies at the heart of the next generation Air Transportation System (or NextGen) in the U.S. and the Single European Sky ATM Research Programme (or SESAR) in Europe. ADS-B plays a vital role in plans to transform ATC from the current radar-based surveillance to satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) surveillance.

ESA’s Proba-V, launched in 2013, first confirmed the feasibility of detection from orbit, opening up the prospect of a global aircraft monitoring system incorporating remote regions not covered by ground-based air traffic control.

GomX-3 also carries a miniaturised X-band transmitter, developed by Syrlinks in France, which has demonstrated the rapid download of data. In addition, the CubeSat is measuring radio signals emitted by telecom satellites to assess their overall transmission efficiency and how their signal quality changes with respect to distance from their target footprints.

GomX-3 — which is expected to reenter the atmosphere and burn up in September of this year — was supported by ESA through its General Support Technology Programme, aimed at convert promising engineering concepts into spaceworthy products.

Further ESA technology CubeSats are set for launch later this year. Meanwhile, GomSpace is developing a follow-up 6-unit CubeSat called GomX-4B, also supported by ESA, scheduled for launch in the second half of 2017.  

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