A new joint venture established this week by mobile satellite service firm Iridium will provide satellite-based navigation, tracking and related services to the commercial airline industry that, eventually, may replace ground-based radar systems. Christened “Aireon,” the venture includes air navigation concern NAV CANADA, which currently manages air traffic over Canada and the Atlantic Ocean and according to Iridium has signed on as Aireon’s first customer. Owing to the inefficiencies of ground-based radar systems that require traffic controllers to keep aircraft widely spaced and thus force pilots to fly longer routes, government and industry officials are pursuing alternative technologies, such as satellite tracking, that will enable controllers and pilots to better pinpoint aircraft positions while helping to reduce carbon emissions and fuel costs. Initially, Aireon will cover flights within Canada and on transatlantic routes. Eventually, the Company expects to add additional participants to the venture and to cover air traffic routes over the Pacific Ocean and polar regions. The Aireon system will operate via payloads to be built into the 66 satellites of Iridium’s second-generation satellite constellation, which is scheduled for launch in 2015. In turn, the hosted payloads will communicate with a network of “ADS-B” towers and transmitters that major airlines have already begun to install on their aircraft. Applauding the venture’s formation, Iridium CEO Matt Desch lauded Aireon as “a big milestone for commercially hosted payloads and a groundbreaking use” of Iridium’s global mobile satellite system.