Technical Assistance for Iris Communication Standards

Status date

Inmarsat has completed a Technical Assistance Contract under Phase A of the Iris programme, where the European Space Agency (ESA) has embarked on the development of a new satellite to aircraft communication standard in support of both safety of life and aircraft operational communication. The purpose of Inmarsat’s involvement was to assist the Agency in determining suitable options to be further developed towards eventual validation and deployment.

The work was structured in five tasks:

  1. Analysis of the suitability of adopting current ATM standards to the 2020 scenario,
  2. Analysis of future Communication Standard candidate and worldwide application,
  3. Analysis of current and expected aeronautical services,
  4. Analysis of validation roadmap and possible use of existing space assets for the purpose,
  5. Analysis of the business case.
  • Production of a detailed report describing potential adaptation of Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband system to meet emerging Continental ATM requirements.
  • Review of documentation developed by ESA and the main Iris Phase A consortia to providing reports summarising Inmarsat’s assessment. These activities included:
    • Critical review of technical notes and reports provided by the two Communication System Design consortia.
    • A critical review of ESA’s System Requirements Document (SRD) in order to provide feedback that would be used for updating this document for use in Phase B of the Iris Communication System Design study.
    • A critical assessment of the ATM Service Provision and Business Case documentation provided by ESA.
  • Inmarsat’s views on the evolution of demand for aeronautical services and how this is likely to affect the scenarios presented by SESAR.

The benefits of pursuing an ATM strategy based on SwiftBroadband are:

  • ATM traffic can efficiently co-exist with commercial traffic on shared satellite bearers, offering significantly lower operational costs;
  • A single avionics installation could be used whether the aircraft is in oceanic or continental regions;
  • Inmarsat has a strong track record in providing high-reliability communication services, to include safety services; and
  • The development path would build on a well-established satellite, ground network and avionics supply infrastructure, significantly reducing programme schedule and risk when compared to implementation of a dedicated system.

Within the aeronautical domain today, Inmarsat with its partner JCAB, are the only operators that deliver operationally approved satellite datalink safety services. Service is delivered via the Classic Aero system and is currently approved for Oceanic operations. The Classic Aero service is thus an essential component of the worldwide ATM system.

Today, more than 6750 air transport aircraft are equipped with Classic Aero and roughly over a third routinely use it for Future Air Navigation System (FANS) service. Almost all new wide body aircraft delivered by Airbus and Boeing are equipped with Classic Aero satcom FANS capability.

Inmarsat’s latest aeronautical service, SwiftBroadband, supports IP data services up to 432kbit/s, streaming rates up to 128kbit/s plus voice and ISDN on a worldwide basis via Inmarsat’s geostationary satellites.

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SwiftBroadband (SB) entered commercial service in September 2007. SwiftBroadband terminals include both high-gain (Class 6) and intermediate gain (Class 7) variants.

Within Iris Phase A Inmarsat researched the potential to extend the SB Safety Service capability to include the requirements for Continental Airspace operations. This would require modifications to the ground segment in order to meet the more stringent latency and reliability requirements, and would also involve system modifications to enable new, smaller, low-cost avionics. This paper describes system modifications that would support a potential Low-Gain SB terminal with data rates between 25kbps and 50kbps depending upon elevation angle to the satellite. Performance of the SB air interface in support of future ATM requirements has been assessed and the potential for optimisation has been presented.

Inmarsat has detailed the potential for integration with its planned multicast network infrastructure so that one-to-many ATM applications such as weather data can be routed efficiently.

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  • In Task 1 Inmarsat produced a detailed report on the potential adaptation of SwiftBroadband to meet the emerging ATM requirements, i.e. mandatory voice in the oceanic domain by 2013 and data link service for all domains by 2020.
  • In Task 2 Inmarsat supported ESA by reviewing and commenting on technical notes and reports provided by the two Communication System Design consortia.
  • In Task 3 Inmarsat assisted ESA in analysis of current and expected aeronautical services and requirements. The two main elements within this task are:
    • A critical review of the SRD for use in Phase B of the Iris Communication System Design study.
    • Views on the evolution of demand for aeronautical services and how this is likely to affect the scenarios presented by SESAR.
  • In Task 4 Inmarsat was to provide provide a critical review of the feasibility of using present and future Inmarsat satellite systems for the purpose of validation and early deployment of a new ATM Communication standard.
  • In Task 5 Inmarsat reviewed the Technical Notes of ESA’s Satcom for ATM study Service Provision and Business Case.
Current status

This Phase A Technical Assistance contract has been completed.