Only a few months after SpaceX launched the last set of Iridium Communications satellites into orbit, the new network is helping deliver critical data to aviation officials.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, grounded Boeing's 737 Max airplanes on Wednesday, after receiving data from air traffic surveillance company Aireon about the deadly crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.
Aireon's system piggybacks on Iridium's network of 75 satellites. Expected to become fully operational in a few weeks, Aireon can track airplanes anywhere on the planet. But the company's data is already proving to be critical, as Aireon said in a statement to CNBC that "the system was able to capture information associated with Flight 302."
While Aireon declined to make company officials available for an interview while the investigation is ongoing, the company said it is working with federal officials to provide them with raw data. Even though the Aireon system has not been fully rolled out, the company is able to provide investigators with information about an aircraft's location, velocity, altitude and more.
"Our sympathies go out to the families of the passengers and crew of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302," Aireon said in a statement. Aireon gave "the data transmitted from Flight 302" to support the investigations of the FAA and several other aviation authorities, the company said.
Even after dozens of countries grounded Boeing's 737 Max, the FAA did not. It was only until "actionable data" arrived from Aireon that the FAA made the decision, acting Administrator Daniel Elwell told CNBC.
"We cannot comment on the cause of the tragedy or the outcome of the investigation, only that we have provided the data," Aireon clarified in its statement.