On July 9th, 2019, a courageous team set out on a mission: to break the Round-the-World record for any aircraft flying over the North and South poles. Paying tribute to the 1969 Apollo 11 mission and man’s first moon landing, the One More Orbit team took off from the Space Florida Launch and Landing facility (previously known as the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility), the same site that the historic flight did 50 years ago, at precisely the same time (09:32am). Aviation enthusiasts around the world tuned in to watch the journey unfold via a live stream from the aircraft.
Flying in a Qatar Executive Gulfstream G650ER with SD Connectivity onboard, Action Aviation Chairman Hamish Harding and former International Space Station Commander Col. Terry Virts along with their team completed the journey in 46 hours 39 minutes and 38 seconds – breaking the previous record by 5 hours and 52 minutes. The speed record has been certified by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) and GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™. In addition, Harding and Qatar Executive will be claiming 12 more Speed Over Recognized Course record claims, including the fastest time ever achieved from the North Pole to South Pole, which took 23 hours and 30 minutes.
To meet the needs of the fastest-flight endeavor, the team installed equipment and services to deliver the fastest broadband inflight connectivity available for private aviation. The One More Orbit team were connected across the network service area with SD state-of-the-art equipment, including the Satcom Direct Router (SDR) and SD Pro® Operating System, supporting multiple real-time streaming and communication capabilities.
The first of a kind set-up, which had to support the mission team and a documentary filming team, as well as the live stream, underwent rigorous testing ahead of the ambitious attempt. SD was committed to ensuring the One More Orbit team had the resources needed to successfully complete their goal of honoring the brave Apollo 11 astronauts. The communications equipment was tested in the UK at SD’s Farnborough facility with Inmarsat and the film production crew. Testing was repeated in Savannah at the Gulfstream Service Center and was put through its paces again on-wing ahead of take off at Space Florida Launch and Landing Facility.
SD’s flight operations software platform, SD Pro®, kept the aircraft synchronized with ground operations and enabled crew and mission control to exchange valuable flight data to improve operational efficiency, which was essential for successfully beating the existing record. It also enabled live flight tracking, which was publicly accessible through the One More Orbit website for supporters to watch completion of every one of the 22,422 nautical miles of the journey.
The high-profile event required high-level cybersecurity, which was delivered through SD Threat Monitoring service. Real time detection, identification, and mitigation of any attempted cyber-threat was supported by the SD network infrastructure, the SD Data Center, and worldwide Points of Presence (POPS), ensuring a secure voyage for data and crew.
“We are thrilled to have been a part of this inspiring adventure, which pays homage to our great Apollo 11 astronauts who boldly took that momentous flight to the moon fifty years ago. We wholeheartedly congratulate the One More Orbit crew and mission team for successfully completing this incredible record attempt. It highlights that visions can be made reality and we are privileged to have played a part in making modern-day history,” said Jim Jensen. “We pride ourselves on being at the leading edge of aviation connectivity, as the only dedicated provider in the business aviation sector. The One More Orbit mission aligns with our company philosophy of always pushing boundaries, looking for new solutions, and delivering effective connectivity, as we take on the challenges and make the seemingly impossible, possible. Business jet users will only benefit from this adventure as we have learned a few things along the way. Not only has this set a new world record, it has raised the bar for business aviation connectivity expectations.”