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Aussie air traffic management satellites now operational

written by Liam McAneny | January 12, 2023

Skykraft has confirmed the first five satellites it launched to improve air traffic management in Australia are now functioning after launching last week.

The five are the first of a planned 200-strong constellation, Australia’s largest ever.

The business has been working on the project with Airservices and hopes the satellites will provide better monitoring of aircraft by covering current gaps in Australia’s air traffic management systems.

All five were launched from Cape Canaveral on SpaceX’s Transport-6 mission, a dedicated rideshare mission for small satellites.


The satellites were launched as a single payload, with four of the mission satellites carried by an orbital transfer vehicle.

Weighing in at over 300 kilograms each, they are the largest Australian-designed and made objects that have ever been launched into space.

After successful initial tests of the single payload, the remaining four mission satellites were detached from the orbital transfer vehicle, resulting in five satellites becoming active.

Skykraft has been hard at work over the past week to run through a wide series of tests and perform critical operations for the initial setup of the satellites.

The company has established a constant line of communication between its ground stations and the satellite using its UHF command channel. In addition to this, they have monitored the batteries and solar panels in the satellite’s power system, ensuring that they are providing correct power and recharging properly.

The mission computers are also working flawlessly, according to a statement from Skykraft.

Now the company will move on to begin the operations of the satellites for their intended purpose as an aviation traffic aid.

“Skykraft is now actively operating the five satellites, which form the largest ever constellation of Australian-built spacecraft, and will be carrying out proof of concept activities for our Air Traffic Management services,” the company said.

Skykraft has big plans for its Air Traffic Management (ATM) service that will be delivered by satellites.

“This first launch is just the start. Over the next two years, Skykraft is building and launching a satellite constellation that will accurately track and monitor aircraft movements globally, allowing aircraft to follow more efficient flight routes.”

The next few months will be some of the most important for Skykraft and its ATM system. It plans to test the capabilities of its system extensively over the next three months, and the team will take the satellites through their paces and collect a huge range of data to refine the operation of the system.

Throughout this time, Skykraft also plans to continue launching more satellites to add to the constellation, enabling more data to be gathered and beamed back to Earth.

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