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Skykraft launches next stage in air traffic management project

Jake Nelson

Australian space services company Skykraft has launched another prototype air traffic management satellite stack in its second launch for 2023.

Skykraft launches next stage in air traffic management project

Launched on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenburg Space Force Base in California, the prototype is part of a program designed to track aircraft from space and provide global communication between pilots and air traffic control irrespective of a plane’s location.

In a statement, Skykraft said its air traffic management technology will improve safety, reduce fuel costs, and contribute “significantly” to a reduction in environmental impacts from air transport.

“Today’s launch again showcases Skykraft’s in-house advanced manufacturing capabilities, which have passed the rigorous quality requirements for integration onto the SpaceX Transporter-8 Mission,” the company said.

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“Skykraft’s in-house advanced manufacturing is part of a commitment to minimise capital costs while maximising performance, to drive competitive pricing in space-based services such as Air Traffic Management.

“Skykraft’s Air Traffic Management Constellation will grow consistently over the coming years to provide redundant global coverage, with an average of more than 7 satellites within range of an aircraft at anytime, anywhere in the world.”

The first five satellites in Skykraft’s planned 200-strong constellation launched in January, with the project aiming to provide better monitoring of aircraft by covering current gaps in Australia’s air traffic management systems.

Currently, aircraft monitoring systems can only track aircraft up to 400 kilometres away from land and requires the aircraft to be in line of sight of a radar system.

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These radar systems, in conjunction with radio communication, can result in long delays for pilots to be provided with approval to change course, something that CEO Michael Frater says will change with Skykraft’s satellites.

“So, if you’re flying from Sydney to Los Angeles and your aircraft hits turbulence, the pilot will now be able to get a clearance to change altitude much more quickly,” he said.

Skykraft earlier this year inked a deal with NZ air traffic control provider Airways New Zealand to collect aircraft movement data and test it against data from Airways covering NZ, the South Pacific and Southern Oceans, and the Tasman Sea.

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