Ten fold more accurate satellite navigation to 10 cm

October 27, 2021 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
 Ten fold more accurate satellite navigation to 10 cm
According to initial tests, new software from RUAG Space can determine the real-time position of a satellite in space ten times more accurately than was previously possible. More accurate positioning data leads to more precise satellite data and helps to avoid space debris.

Every day, satellites provide important data for climate and environmental research, such as how high sea levels are rising or what effects global warming is having on glacier retreats in the Alps. The more precise the satellite data, the more accurate the scientists’ predictions. To achieve this, RUAG Space is working on a study for the European Union to determine the position of satellites more precisely, which in turn will enable better satellite data on climate change, for example.

RUAG Space recently conducted its first tests on Earth. This involved testing new software with an existing navigation receiver for RUAG Space satellites under simulated space conditions. "The result was impressive," reported Heinz Reichinger, Technical lead engineer for navigation receivers and signal processing. "We were able to determine the satellite's position ten times more accurately than previously possible." Position accuracy improved from about 100 centimeters to 10 centimeters. "This is a quantum leap in high-precision positioning of satellites" With an accuracy of 10 centimeters, the test results even significantly exceeded the original expectations of accuracy of 20 centimeters.

The higher accuracy was achieved with a new software program. In addition to conventional signals, the software can also process an additional position signal from the European Global Navigation Satellite System, 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," explained Martin Auer, who is leading the study at RUAG Space. With the Galileo High Accuracy Service (HAS), Galileo will pioneer 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 loaded 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 already having the RUAG Space navigation receiver "PODRIX" delivered to it for the Sentinel-1C environmental satellite upgraded with this new software for in-orbit validation of the satellite. The Sentinel-1C satellite built by Thales Alenia Space will be launched in 2022.

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