preliminary design and demonstrator for a global space-based independent aircraft surveillance systemMunich, Germany. 25 July 2023 . The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded Spire Global, Inc.  a provider of space-based data, analytics and space services, a €16 million phased contract for the EURIALO project, which will develop the preliminary design and demonstrator for a global space-based independent aircraft surveillance system. The project framework is part of ESA’s programme of Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) in its Directorate of Connectivity and Secure Communications.

The EURIALO project intends to design and demonstrate the viability of a novel system that uses a satellite constellation to track aircraft by determining their exact position based on different times of arrivals of radio frequency (RF) signals, a technology known in the aviation industry as multilateration (MLAT). Spire will develop the mission and system design for a satellite constellation in low Earth orbit (LEO) and then design, deploy and operate a demonstrator mission that proves the performance of the system and its critical technologies. Following the initial design and demonstrator phases, there is a potential opportunity to be selected to build out the full constellation, which would foresee a large number of satellites.

The Company will lead a consortium of major industry players for the contract, including ESSP (European Satellite Services Provider), a leading space-based Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (CNS) services provider.

Today, surveillance systems often rely on self-reported positions of aircraft, which are derived from GNSS satellites. The need for an additional complementary space solution will provide a fully reliable and resilient surveillance solution completing the European CNS infrastructure. By independently verifying the location of a plane through geolocation MLAT technology, the EURIALO project will provide the most advanced and reliable system for aircraft surveillance, with the ability to track a plane in real time from takeoff to landing anywhere in the world. The project aligns with the forward-look strategy of the European Air Traffic Management (ATM) Master Plan, which outlines the need for resilient, space-based infrastructure to support safe, sustainable and efficient air travel.

“Space-based aircraft tracking and geolocation is the future of air traffic management to ensure safe, secure and sustainable air travel at a global scale,” said Peter Platzer, CEO, Spire Global. “We are honored to be selected by ESA to lead the development of this first-of-its-kind aviation surveillance system demonstrator, leveraging our more than 500 years of flight heritage operating satellites in space and expertise in radio frequency technology.”

“ESA has a long track record of supporting companies that use satellites to improve aviation safety, security and sustainability, ensuring European autonomy and improving the lives of European citizens by creating jobs and prosperity,” said Javier Benedicto, acting director of Connectivity and Secure Communications at ESA. “We are proud to partner with Spire Global with its strong heritage to develop a best-in-class satellite system design to demonstrate a system that will revolutionise air traffic management and surveillance for safer skies.”

The EURIALO project is mainly funded through the German Space Agency at DLR. Spire, through its newly established German subsidiary, will open an office in Munich, strengthening the small satellite segment in Germany. The office will expand the Company’s geographic footprint to nine offices across six countries.

“This project will contribute to safer, and more efficient and sustainable air traffic. Addressing the small satellite market will further boost our industrial base in Germany. Small satellites in near Earth orbit offer a wealth of opportunities for innovative solutions to our real-world needs,” said Fabienne Spreen, German Space Agency at DLR, advisor to the German ESA delegation.