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April 9, 2020

NATO Software Estimates Areas of Degraded GNSS Service

Experts at the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency have developed a software-based tool that can estimate the area where an interfering signal would degrade or deny GNSS signals, and assess the scale of the interfering signal and its potential impact on operations. Principally of interest are jamming or spoofing attacks on GPS or Galileo, of course.

The Radar Electromagnetic and Communication Coverage Tool (REACT), was sponsored by the NATO Navigation and Identification Programme of Work. It serves as a proof-of-concept of how analytical tools could support the execution of operations. The tool is also available to NATO Nations free of charge. For now, the software is only used for trial and experimentation.

NATO REACT, photo courtesy NCI
NATO REACT, photo courtesy NCI

To use the software, operators input information on the particular jammers – their locations and technical characteristics — and the software produces a map of the area where the interfering signals would degrade or deny GNSS receivers. This can be displayed on the NATO Core Geographical Information System (GIS) map.

The next phase of the project focuses on ensuring the software can work on NATO classified networks, which would make it more available to operational commands to test and ensure such support measures are properly integrated into NATO operations.

The software and its estimations were demonstrated to operators during exercise Trident Jupiter 2019, part 1, to collect their feedback. The exercise gathered 3,000 military and civilian personnel as participants, evaluators and observers. Thirty NATO member and partner nations participated in nine different exercise locations across Europe.

“Ten consecutive twelve-hour working days and a relentless, ever-increasing, battle-rhythm tempo came to an end as Exercise Trident Jupiter 2019-1 (TRJU19-1) reached completion on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019,” the agency stated.

TRJU19 was the largest and most complex exercise planned and executed by the Alliance’s Joint Warfare Centre to date. TRJU19-2 took place in March 2020.

“NATO’s adversaries have the ability to degrade or deny GPS-enabled capabilities,” said Jean-Philippe Saulay, a NATO Navigation and Identification Officer. “NATO must take appropriate measures to ensure Allied forces can operate in a degraded or denied environment.”

“NATO must maintain superiority in the electromagnetic environment, including but not limited to, positioning, navigation and timing services,” said Dr Enrico Casini, Communications and Navigation Engineer at the NCI Agency. “Situational awareness of navigation systems in a contested electromagnetic environment contributes to that superiority. NATO is enhancing its knowledge of electronic warfare technology,” Dr Casini said. “The electromagnetic environment has become even more contested in recent years. One aspect of that is interference with GNSS systems.”

Photos courtesy NATO Communications and Information Agency.

By Inside GNSS

Hidden Siblings of the GNSS

GPS keeps a digital twin sequestered in El Segundo, California. Galileo has an Earth-bound space vehicle in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, straining at its bonds, yearning to break free and fly with its brethren. Both constellation “ghosts” exist in an eerie testing twilight, being made to replicate the movements and reactions of their free-flying families. Their sacrifices could lead to better, more robust satellites in future generations.

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By Alan Cameron
April 8, 2020

GPS III Launch Delayed by Pandemic

The Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) announced Tuesday it would reschedule the launch of the GPS III SV03 satellite “to minimize the potential of COVID-19 exposure to the launch crew and early-orbit operators.”

Originally scheduled for late April 2020 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the launch is now projected to go up no earlier than June 30.

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By Dee Ann Divis

Space Symposium Moves to Fall in Colorado

The 2020 Space Symposium has been rescheduled for October 31—November 2 this year, to be held as usual at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. GPS in particular and GNSS in general always form an important part of the program. The annual assembly gathers leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs from the civil, commercial, military, research, and international sectors of the world’s space community.

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By Inside GNSS
April 1, 2020

Small Packages, Big Missions. Simulation Testing of CubeSats Before Launch is Critical

Hundreds, thousands of tiny satellites no bigger than a breadbox orbit the Earth, gathering a staggering amount of data and relaying petabytes of communication. These nanosatellites, commonly called cubesats, serve a variety of research and, increasingly, commercial roles. They work for science, exploration, technology development, education, telecommunications and other operations.

They are built to a standard dimension of 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, or small multiples thereof. Typical weight is less than 1.33 kg (3 lbs) per U, or Unit, which equals on 10 cm cube.

Among other launch opportunities, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) CubeSat Launch initiative (CSLI) can give a ride up to small satellites as auxiliary payloads on planned rocket missions.

To meet performance requirements, commercial cubesats must often report from a precisely known location. Faulty positioning can produce inaccurate data that will adversely affect commercial operations on Earth. Cubesats typically carry a commercial GPS L1 receiver to determine their orbit, as altitude and orbit determination and control form key parameters.

Cubesats often fly in formation and wil then use a GPS/GNSS receiver to co-ordinate and synchronize among themselves. Finally, they use GNSS for onboard synchronization of operations and for precise timestamping of Earth observation data

Though small is size, cubesats can carry a large price tag, up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per project. Pre-launch testing for quality assurance is critical, particular of the satellites’ PNT capabilities. Earth-bound testing cannot replicate the conditions of low-Earth orbit, where the satellites will be moving at several kilometers per second, and need to maintain awareness of the also moving GNSS satellites above them in mid-Earth orbit. Thus the key role of GNSS simulation in this burgeoning industry.

The content of this article is largely drawn from a blog post by Talini Pinto Jayawardena, a space science technologist with Spirent Communications, and also a research manager at the University of Bath. To read her full blog, which contains a detailed description of key performance criteria to test with a simulator, visit here.

Extensive discussion of Doppler shift handling, precise orbit determination, antenna performance, time synchronization, special events, onboard interference handling, and the impact of environmental test (vibration and thermal vacuum) is presented.

 

By Inside GNSS
March 31, 2020

GPS Ground, Space, User Segments and Cyber Security Move Forward Together

GPS got a twofer on March 27 with major advances for the ground segment and the space segment. The Contingency Operations (COps) program, an upgrade necessary to the Operational Control System for it to command and control the new GPS III satellites, was approved. And the second GPS III satellite to orbit was approved, a stage that should shortly be followed by it  becoming available to military and civilian users.

Both steps occurred upon receiving the U.S. Space Force’s Operational Acceptance approval.

COps has operated on a trial basis since last October, supporting the developmental testing of the GPS III ground and space capabilities. The trial period culminated in a fully mission capable rating from the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center’s Operational Utility Evaluation.

GPS SV02 launched on Aug. 22, 2019, and upon completing its test, COps took control of it, bringing it into the III fold along with its earlier sibling, GPS III SV01. Administering COps and in direct control of both satellites is the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schreiver Air Force Base, Colorado.

“Of all the programs that will be delivered this year, there are few that carry with it as significant an impact to the warfighter and civilian users as [COps] will. This is truly a remarkable leap forward for the GPS enterprise and the capability it provides, and I couldn’t be more proud of the team that came together to make it happen,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Toth, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander.

Lockheed Martin built both satellites as well as the COps command and control program. The company is under contract to build up to 32 of the new generation and its follow-on version, carrying new technology and advanced capabilities in payloads made by L3Harris. The military advances aboard these satellites include the new military M-code, and COps is necessary to administer this signal.

19 previously orbited IIR-M and IIF generation GPS satellites can broadcast M-Code, as can GPS III SV01 and SV02. The third M-code enabled GPS III satellite should launch in April of this year. The military is getting very close to full M-code capability, which will occur when 24 orbiting satellites have it. Its operational availability is on track for 2020.

User Equipment Not Far Behind

The M-Code Early Use (MCEU) upgrade, delivered earlier this year, is a key part of COps, enabling the system to task, upload and monitor M-Code within the GPS constellation. It also supports testing and fielding of modernized user equipment, prior to the completion of the next-generation ground control system, or OCX.

The M-Code encrypted GPS signal enhances anti-jamming and protection from spoofing, and increases secure access for U.S. and allied military forces.

A key to enabling M-Code is a new software-defined receiver Lockheed Martin developed and is installing at all six Space Force monitoring sites. The M-Code Monitor Station Technology Capability receives and monitors M-Code signals.

Red Dragon Breathes Cyber Security

Finally, Lockheed Martin als0 delivered the Red Dragon Cybersecurity Suite (RDCSS) Phase III upgrade during the fourth quarter of 2019, dramatically improving Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO) visibility into GPS network traffic. Other add-ons include user behavior analytics to analyze patterns of traffic and network taps to improve data collections.

“GPS is an attractive target for our adversaries, so it was critical we bring our best cybersecurity defenses to the table,” said Stacy Kubicek, Vice President of Mission Solutions Defense and Security.

[Image above: Capt. Adam Moody, 2nd Space Operations Squadron Global Positioning System Operations Support flight commander, and Staff Sgt. Carl Ellinger, 2 SOPS GPS mission chief, review a checklist of procedures for a transfer operation at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Rogers)]

By Inside GNSS