Iridium expects to start its Certus service for aviation users by midyear 2019, delivering global, broadband connectivity to aircraft flight decks supporting electronic flight bag, graphical weather and other applications.

 An Internet Protocol-based service operating in the L band, Certus is based on the new-generation, Iridium Next satellite constellation, which is nearing completion. Iridium expects a final launch of 10 satellites will take place in December, via SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. That will complete the constellation of 66 operational and nine spare spacecraft.

In addition to supporting Certus service, Iridium Next satellites carry automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast receivers for the Aireon space-based surveillance network.

At present, service providers and Iridium value-added manufacturers (VAM) are testing Certus on vehicles and ships. Following those trials, Iridium expects to launch commercial Certus service for the land-mobile and maritime markets by the end of the year, said Bryan Hartin, Iridium executive vice president, sales and marketing.

Iridium will phase in Certus service classes for aviation, beginning with Certus 350, capable of 352 Kbps data speed to support applications such as flight data recorder streaming. A firmware update to the company’s core transceiver will enable Certus 700, capable of 704 Kbps (352 Kbps transmit; 704 Kbps receive). Iridium’s legacy service, which Iridium Next satellites will continue to support, provides 2.4 Kbps.

“We’re a pipe,” said Michael Hooper, Iridium director of aviation. “We will be able to provide for the first time IP-based traffic, segmented IP flows, capability for partners to be able to identify different traffic and send that through the network. It’s two-way data to and from the aircraft, something the pilot needs from a situational awareness capability, or it could be maintenance related.”