Thales Alenia Space, the joint venture between Thales and Leonardo, and Inmarsat, one of the world’s leading providers of global mobile satellite communications, have announced a partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) on Iris, a ground-breaking programme that will enhance air traffic management in Europe.
The programme, which supports the Single European Skies ATM Research (SESAR) masterplan, will develop satellite communication services that support more efficient air traffic management, including the continuous exchange of information on aircraft flight position and waypoints, allowing pilots and air traffic controllers to fly closer to optimum flight paths that save fuel and cut CO2 emissions, while also reducing flight times.
Powered by Inmarsat’s new SB-S platform, which is already being deployed by airlines, Iris’s enhanced IP-based capabilities will relieve pressure on currently crowded VHF radio links, which are near capacity.
The project, which lasts 36 months, is split into two phases. In Phase one the companies will finalise the end-to-end Iris system, capable of operating an initial (partial) service to support the medium-term goals of the European Commission’s SESAR initiative.
Heading into the second phase, the organisations will gear up the Iris system for full operational capability (FOC), contingent on the results of the first phase.
Working with Inmarsat, the core team for the project comprises Thales Alenia Space and CGI, which offers long-standing experience in the spaceborne manufacturing market. Thales Alenia Space will focus on preparing the Iris FOC system. It is in charge of space segment design, the roadmap and preliminary developments, while also being a contributor to system engineering, including performance and security design aspects.