Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
  GPS News  

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

NASA space radio could change how flights are tracked worldwide
by Naomi Seck for GSFC News
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jan 30, 2017

This map plots scheduled flights - more than 50,000 of them - from June 2009. With Aireon flight tracking, powered by a radio developed by Harris Corporation, air traffic control agencies will be able to see in real time the location and heading of every plane in the air. Credits: Wikipedia user Jpatokal, CC BY-SA 3.0

Under a new space-based tracking system, no plane would ever have to be off the grid, thanks in part to a reconfigurable radio developed for NASA.

NASA's powerful radio communications network allows us to receive data such as pictures of cryovolcanoes on Pluto - or tweets from astronauts aboard the International Space Station. But to send larger quantities of data back and forth faster, NASA engineers wanted higher-frequency radios that can be reprogrammed from a distance using software updates.

"A reconfigurable radio lets engineers change how the radio works throughout the life of [any space mission]," explains Thomas Kacpura, Advanced Communications Program manager at NASA's Glenn Research Center. "It can also be upgraded to work better with future missions or to enhance performance, just by adding new software."

Flexible Solutions
In the past, Kacpura says, engineers were reluctant to build reconfigurable devices for space, because it's harder to guarantee performance - after all, how do you test for functions you don't even know you'll be using?

However, NASA has recently been allotting more resources to reconfigurable devices, and the agency worked with Palm Bay, Florida-based Harris Corporation to design and develop a new reconfigurable, higher-bandwidth radio.

The radio has been put through its paces through exhaustive testing both on the ground and in space, and in 2013, it was honored with an R and D 100 Award as one of the year's 100 most significant innovations.

The biggest selling point of the new device, which Harris sells as the AppSTAR, turned out to be its flexibility. With hardware and software both fully reconfigurable, the company could quickly and cheaply redesign the radio to fit any customer's needs, explains Harris program manager Kevin Moran.

One of the biggest contracts so far is with Aireon LLC, a joint venture that will use the radios to create the first space-based global air traffic control system.

All the Planes, All the Time
For decades, airplanes have relied on radar surveillance via land-based radar stations. That's left huge gaps - particularly over oceans - where air traffic controllers have no real-time information. To compensate, pilots file detailed flight plans and are required to remain within prescribed lanes at different altitudes so air traffic controllers can estimate where they are and work to ensure there are no mid-air collisions.

But that is all set to change when a constellation of 66 satellites, owned by Iridium Communications Inc., goes into orbit equipped with AppSTAR radios. The radios are programmed to receive signals from new airplane transceivers called ADS-B, which automatically send out a flight's number, location, heading and other details.

"Within seconds you can keep track of all the aircraft in the world," says Harris systems engineer Jeff Anderson. Aireon has already signed contracts with a number of air traffic control agencies to integrate the space-based system into their flight tracking when the system goes live in 2018. Nav Canada, a founding partner in Aireon, was one of the first.

With real-time global tracking, planes can fly with less space between them and take more direct routes. "It tremendously improves public safety and potentially saves a lot of fuel costs, because you no longer have to remain in the particular airline traffic lanes," Anderson says.

And if something does go wrong, search and rescue teams will have detailed information on where the plane was last spotted through a free service called Aireon ALERT.

Using an extra card slot on the radio, Harris was also able to add global tracking for ships, which the company markets as exactAIS RealTime, powered by Harris with their partner exactEarth.

Because AppSTAR software can be reconfigured remotely, both the Aireon and exactAIS systems can be updated well after launch. And it all started with the same box, processor and power supply cards as the NASA radio.

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Technology at NASA
GPS Applications, Technology and Suppliers

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
New project to boost Sat Nav positioning accuracy anywhere in world
Nottingham UK (SPX) Jan 27, 2017
The service, to be developed at prototype level, will benefit safety-critical industries like aviation and maritime navigation, as well as high accuracy dependent applications such as offshore drilling and production operations, dredging, construction, agriculture and driverless cars and drones, just to name a few. The EU-funded TREASURE project, will integrate signals from satellite navig ... read more

Italy's military 'narcos' cook up cannabis cures

Corn turning French hamsters into deranged cannibals: research

Crop achilles' heel costs farmers 10 percent of potential yield

Pigs and chocolate: Using math to solve problems in farming

Atomic-level sensors enable measurements of electric field within a chip

The world's first heat-driven transistor

Apple legal fight with Qualcomm spreads to China

Electron movement on helium may impact the future of quantum computing

Pentagon chief orders review of F-35 fighter program

Lockheed completes inlet coating repair on F-22

Advanced robotic bat's flight characteristics simulates the real thing

State Dept. approves $525 million aerostat sale to Saudi Arabia

Chinese, Mexican automakers team up to make SUVs

Daimler to supply self-driving cars for Uber

Dieselgate drags on for VW and Bosch with new payouts

German prosecutors say probing former VW CEO for fraud

One income for all: far-fetched, or future fact?

China factory activity stabilises in January

China trade cost 3.4 mn US jobs in 2001-2015: report

Tech firms unite to challenge Trump on immigration

High-tech maps of tropical forest diversity identify new conservation targets

Risk of tree species disappearing in central Africa 'a major concern,' say researchers

Forests 'held their breath' during global warming hiatus, research shows

Trees supplement income for rural farmers in Africa

NASA Makes an EPIC Update to Website for Daily Earth Pics

Subscale Glider Could Assist in Weather Studies, Prediction

NASA Airborne Mission Chases Air Pollution Through the Seasons

How satellite data changed chimpanzee conservation efforts

Scientists determine precise 3-D location 23,000 atoms in a nanoparticle

NIST updates 'sweet' 1950s separation method to clean nanoparticles from organisms

Nanocavity and atomically thin materials advance tech for chip-scale light sources

Ultra-precise chip-scale sensor detects unprecedentedly small changes at the nanoscale

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement