Satellite positioning boost with 10cm accuracy

Satellite positioning boost with 10cm accuracy

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

More accurate positioning data leads to more precise satellite data and helps to avoid space debris and can also be used for ground-based positioning systems.

The first Earth-based tests showed positioning accurate down to 10cm using the software on an existing GNSS receiver under simulated space conditions. The company is now developing a low cost receiver for small satellites.

“The result was impressive,” said Heinz Reichinger, technical lead engineer for navigation receivers and signal processing at RUAG Space. “We were able to determine the satellite’s position ten times more accurately than previously possible. This is a quantum leap in high-precision positioning of satellites”

The test results even significantly exceeded the original expectations of accuracy of 20cm by using an additional position signal from Galileo. To determine the exact position of satellites, RUAG Space’s latest navigation receivers combine signals from both Galileo and the American GPS system. “We are using the Galileo signal to position satellites that are in space. But there is currently untapped potential in the Galileo satellites as they transmit signals in several frequency bands,” said Martin Auer, who is leading the study at RUAG Space.

With the Galileo High Accuracy Service (HAS), Galileo will provide a worldwide, free high-accuracy positioning service aimed at applications that require higher performance such as drones or autonomous vehicles. This service should be available in 2022.

“A software update can be played on navigation receivers already in space as well as receivers we’ve already delivered to customers and are still on Earth.”

The hardware of the devices remains unchanged. ESA, for example, is using the Podrix receiver developed by RUAG Space for the Sentinel-1C environmental satellite built by Thales Alenia Space that will be launched in 2022.

“The more accurately the satellite’s position can be determined, the more precise the environmental data it collects and provides. This potentially unlocks new observations and predictions essential to cope with the effects of climate crisis, for example in exposed coastal cities such as Venice,” said  Fiammetta Diani, Head of Market Development at the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA).

More accurate data about a satellite’s position also helps prevent satellites from colliding in space, providing better space situational awareness (SSA). When satellites collide in orbit, a lot of satellite debris is created. Due to the high speed in orbit, even the smallest debris particles pose a huge threat to other satellites. “The more precise the position of a satellite is known, the better a potential accident can be predicted and, for example, evasive manoeuvres can be carried out. Our more accurate satellite positioning data helps to avoid space debris,” said Heinz Reichinger of RUAG Space.

For the coming constellations of small satellites, RUAG Space is developing a low-cost navigation receiver that is lighter and smaller than conventional devices and already includes the new software capable of processing the additional Galileo HAS signals as a standard feature.

The new receivers called “NavRix PinPoint” are more cost-effective due to the use of standardized COTS electronic components.

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