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While its main role is vegetation mapping, the European Space Agency's Proba-V spacecraft is also being used to carry an aircraft tracking payload. While primary radars can give direct positioning of aircraft by their radar returns, and transponders can give "squawk" identifying information, the latest improvement Automatic Dependent Broadcast - Surveillance (ADS-B) system.
This now gives details of an aircraft's altititude, speed and direction as well as identifying information. ADS-B receivers however have limitations. For example aircraft flying over remote regions and oceans can be out of range of such receivers. One way around this is to position receivers on spacecraft. To test this theory, ESA's Proba-V has been carrying one of these payloads. The German Aerospace Agency, DLR, has now released images showing how aircraft can be tracked by the payload test being run by DLR and SES TechCom.