MH370 disaster: How new space tech can keep of aircraft

Artist’s rendition of a Spire Global cubesat (Spire World)

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, that went missing more than four years, has a thrust of aircraft-tracking technology in the spotlight.

Space technology can provide the answer, according to the satellite specialist Spire Global. The first two aircraft-tracking cubesats was launched recently in an orbit at an Orbital ATK Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The two mini-satellites are only the first of a series of aircraft-tracking cubesats that the company intends to convert into a job.


A number of beautiful shots of the early #OA9 start. Snug, deep inside, that huge fireworks, there are still a few #Spits #satellites, ready to report!

— Spire (@SpireGlobal) 21 May 2018

“The goal is for 75 aircraft tracking satellites in orbit by the end of next year,” Spire Global CEO Peter Platzer told Fox News.

The need to track aircraft over water and in remote areas clearly marked by the Flight MH370. The plane disappeared on 8 March 2014, while en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board. No transmissions were received from the aircraft after the first 38 minutes of the flight, but it is believed to have crashed in the extreme south of the Indian Ocean based on the drift patterns of the crash of the garbage that washes ashore on remote beaches.

Experts believe that the captain of the ill-fated flight for a route that would effectively render the aircraft invisible to the radar in order to commit suicide, but nothing is confirmed.

After the MH370 disaster, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandated that most aircraft travel across the oceans report of the latitude, longitude, altitude and time to the 15 minutes.

The disappearance of MH370 led to a massive search effort that a large expanse of the ocean. If there are any updates on a plane of the position be sent to the 15 minutes, but then the search area is drastically reduced in the event of an emergency.

Spire Global says that satellite-based tracking is the only option for keeping such remote areas.

“There is a lot of interest from customers who want this data,” Platzer told Fox News. “The customers that we have now are of the aircraft tracking industry, aviation, aircraft maintenance companies.”

Spire Global satellites use radio frequency technology to aircraft. The company’s system provides updates every 15 minutes and can be combined with data about the weather, according to Platzer.


The ongoing eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii is just one example of a situation where the airlines have an array of data at their disposal to ensure the safety of aircraft. “When we have information available, it just has a smoother, safer, more efficient operation,” he said.

The launch of the two aircraft-tracking cubesats, the number of Spire Global mini-satellites in an orbit around the 59. The company’s cubesats, into orbit about 311 miles above the Earth, are traditionally used for weather data and tracking of ships.

Like the other mini-satellites, Spire Global, says that the two recently launched cubesats contains multiple sensors, so they can also compile weather and marine data.

Other companies are also harnessing the space technology to keep track of aircraft. Aircraft tracking specialist Aireon, for example, is working with a satellite giant Iridium and a number of aviation authorities around the world on a real-time satellite-based tracking service.

By the use of small cubesats Spire Global says that the offer of a low-cost alternative to traditional satellites.

“We are very optimistic about this segment of the market,” Platzer told Fox News. “Having multiple options for customers is good for our business.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular