First commercial airline for Alphasat air safety service

The SB-Safety service, user terminals, the ground infrastructure, and improvements to the mission control components have been developed with the support of ESA. The Agency is also supporting the development of services and applications, such as SB-Safety, that exploit the advanced capabilities offered by the Alphasat satellite, which was launched in 2013 and is currently operated by Inmarsat.
SB-Safety builds on Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband, the company’s L-band-based satellite communications system for the aviation industry. Developed for use in the flight deck, it provides airlines with cockpit communication, both for operations and air traffic control, everywhere in the world.

Hawaiian Airlines will use SB-Safety for ACARS data messages, live Electronic Flight Bag updates and Airline Operational Communication voice and data. Inmarsat and the US Federal Aviation Administration will collect data on the performance of the FANS1/A service at Hawaiian Airlines, with regulatory approval for FANS1/A over SwiftBroadband expected by early 2016.

“We fly from Hawaii to the US mainland, Asia, Australia and the South Pacific,” said Ken Rewick, Vice President of flight operations at Hawaiian Airlines. “We fly mostly oceanic routes so VHF is of limited use and satellite communications will help us achieve real-time data far more effectively than before.”

“What is particularly important is that SwiftBroadband enables us to provide our pilots with real-time weather updates on their Electronic Flight Bags. It will make our flights even more efficient, because we can avoid the storms, inclement weather and turbulence, whilst also providing the most comfortable experience for our passengers.”

“This agreement represents an important milestone and should demonstrate to the aeronautical industry the level of maturity of the safety service,” said Juan Rivera Castro, Alphasat and EDRS Ground Segment Manager at ESA. “In the future, the SB-Safety service will be provided by Alphasat along with other satellites in Inmarsat’s constellation, making global coverage possible for this key service."

Inmarsat and ESA have been working together since 2007 in one of the most ambitious public–private partnerships the space sector has seen. Thanks to this successful cooperation, Inmarsat was able to add Alphasat to its fleet. This powerful new satellite increases the resiliency, capacity and diversity of Inmarsat’s L-band broadband services. In particular, Alphasat provides the increased capacity and redundancy required to enable the delivery of a new generation of aviation safety services.

To meet the demanding standards set for continental airspace, ESA is also collaborating with Inmarsat to launch Iris Precursor, which builds on SB-Safety, with ultimate goal the adoption of Iris Long-Term for Europe’s future air communication infrastructure.


Artist's rendition of Alphasat, with its massive 11m L-band antenna pointing towards the Earth. (source ESA)

Related Pages

Published 27 October 2014
Last updated at 18 November 2014 - 14:38