Skykraft and Airservices to develop space-based air traffic system – Australian Aviation

Skykraft and Airservices Australia are teaming up to develop a space-based air traffic surveillance system. (Skykraft)

Airservices Australia and Skykraft have signed an agreement to develop a space-based air traffic communications and surveillance system, which is expected to be in orbit by 2023.

Proof-of-concept testing of a constellation of satellites will begin in June 2022 by Skykraft and Airservices will provide its air navigation technical engineering and air traffic management expertise to support the project, according to a press release.

Airservices Australia is a government-owned organization that manages national air security by controlling air and terminal traffic.

Peter Curran, director of customer experience and strategy at Airservices, said Airservices is looking to integrate more space-based surveillance technologies to increase air traffic safety.

“This is a great opportunity to help an Australian company develop a new sovereign capability that has the potential to deliver near-continuous surveillance reporting and higher fidelity communications that not only benefits Airservices and our customers, but also to the global aviation industry,” said Curran.

“Space-based technologies offer a significant opportunity to improve safety, efficiency, predictability and capacity, while reducing overall infrastructure costs associated with current terrestrial networks.”

Skykraft’s goal is to provide technology that will lead to safer flight operations because space surveillance can provide wider coverage of the ground.

The air traffic management landscape has taken a turn in recent years as governments attempt to cope with the next generation of drones and electric planes infiltrating the skies.

Space satellites reduce the blind spots often encountered in ground surveillance, increase situational awareness and improve the coordination of cross-border operations.

Skykraft Executive Chairman Air Vice Marshal (Ret’d) Mark Skidmore said the collaboration would support the “rapid maturation” of the company’s satellite constellation, which facilitates surveillance with aircraft at all altitudes above above ground and sight.

It comes shortly after Skykraft announced in December that it had closed a $3.5 million funding round with investors to provide a global constellation of satellites for air traffic management from space.

Skykraft will use the funding to design and launch the Block II validation satellites – a payload of nine small 300-kilogram satellites – in June 2022 aboard a SpaceX vehicle.

The space services company will launch the satellite through SpaceX’s Rideshare Transporter-5 program, which enables the launch of small objects into space at a lower cost.

Skidmore said Airservices will help design and develop the constellation as the company prepares for SpaceX’s launch, which is poised to begin proof-of-concept testing for imminent liftoff in 2023.

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