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NEON for GPS-denied Environments Marches with Army, DOT

The U.S. Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office’s (RCCTO) selected TRX Systems to deliver a prototype tactical electronic warfare (EW) kit for dismounted soldiers. TRX is also one of 11 firms selected by the Department of Transportation to demonstrate GPS backup technologies, with tests to take place in March.

[This story is the third in a series of 11 detailing technology from firms selected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in August 2019 to demonstrate technologies that could be used to back up the services provided by GPS should GPS signals be jammed, spoofed or unavailable.  See also Echo Ridge and Seven Solutions.]

TRX Systems will provide a portable kit that generates alerts when electronic jamming or spoofing is detected and will provide a “rewind” navigation feature to estimate the user’s probable current position after jamming or spoofing has occurred. The company has developed NEON, a GPS-denied location technology, providing 3D mapping and GPS-denied personnel tracking for warfighters, first responders, security and industrial personnel that operate indoors, underground, and in areas without GPS.

Neon Command User Interface. Courtesy TRX Systems
Neon Command User Interface. Courtesy TRX Systems

NEON delivers ubiquitous, low-cost, GPS-denied location through the use of advanced sensor fusion, ranging, and patented dynamic mapping algorithms. The algorithms fuse inertial sensor data, Wi-Fi readings and inferred building data to deliverreliable 3D location. Optional use of geo-referenced ultra-wideband or Bluetooth beacons enhances positioning accuracy

Neon User Interface. Courtesy TRX Systems
Neon User Interface. Courtesy TRX Systems

TRX’s NEON Location Service provides position data that enables tracking and navigation when satellite technology is unavailable or unreliable. NEON detects GPS interference and delivers continuous location during such events; NEON also delivers 3D personnel location indoors, outside, and underground. NEON provides PNT assurance with commercial-grade solutions that integrate with present and future military satellite assurance and location capabilities.

“The EW Kits provide an easy to use and real-time assessment of GPS integrity for the warfighter, integrated with existing military applications and systems,” said Carol Politi, President and CEO of TRX Systems.

In a 2017 case study, TRX Systems’ NEON Personnel Tracker solution provided 3D tracking of law enforcement, EMS Personnel and other first responders during a critical incident training exercise at Grand Central Terminal in New York City, hosted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Bottom Image (4th Image)
Courtesy TRX Systems

 

By Inside GNSS
March 13, 2020

Signal Vulnerability.

Previously, controlled reception pattern antennas (CRPAs) were only in the military domain, and highly classified. The need to counter increasing  GNSS signal jamming and spoofing in the civil realm has brought CRPAs into limited use there as well.  How to test for their efficacy in product design and development?

A free webinar on Wednesday, March 25 from 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time addresses the topic “GNSS Vulnerability Testing and the Controlled Reception Pattern Antenna (CRPA).” This technically rich, educational event is sponsored by Spirent Communications and Inside GNSS.

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By Inside GNSS

U2: BeiDou Is My Co-pilot

According to a statement by the head of U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, pilots of the elite U-2 spy plane wear watches that receive foreign GNSS signals and provide backup navigation when GPS is jammed.

“My U-2 guys fly with a watch now that ties into GPS, but also BeiDou and the Russian [GLONASS] system and the European [Galileo] system so that if somebody jams GPS, they still get the others,” said Gen. James “Mike” Holmes on March 4 at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference in Washington.

The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed “Dragon Lady,” is a single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude (70,000 feet, 21,300 meters) reconnaissance aircraft. It gathers intelligence with a variety of sensors. The U-2 is one of very few aircraft that have served the Air Force for more than 50 years, a select group that also includes the B-52 long-range bomber. The latest model, the U-2S, had a technical upgrade in 2012. [Dragon Lady photo above, courtesy Lockheed.]

Gen. Holmes did not name the watch manufacturer.

In February 2018, Garmin announced that its D2 Charlie aviator watch had been selected by the Air Force  for use by the pilots of the Lockheed U-2 aircraft. “The high-sensitivity WAAS GPS-enabled D2 Charlie aviator watch incorporates global navigation capability, rich and colorful moving maps and more, providing pilots in the USAF with an exclusive, back-up navigation timepiece in the cockpit. . . . The D2 Charlie aviator watch will be an integral and functional part of the U-2 pilot’s toolkit.”

According to the press release, Garmin expected the United States Air Force to take delivery of more than 100 D2 Charlies.

Among the sensors mentioned on Garmin’s spec sheet for the watch are GPS, GLONASS, a heart rate monitor, barometric altimeter, compass, accelerometer and thermometer. BeiDou is not listed.

However, in an annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company stated: “Garmin utilizes a variety of other global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) including, but not limited to . . . .The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS), a Chinese satellite navigation system that is expected to have 35 operating satellites in orbit by 2020 and will provide global coverage.”

Charlie
Garmin’s D2 Charlie watch, shown here with Weather radar overlay feature. Photo: Garmin

D2 Charlie has a sapphire scratch-resistant crystal lens and a diamond-like carbon (DLC) coated titanium bezel. A sunlight-readable, high-resolution color display with LED backlight on the watch face allows pilots to view data in most lighting conditions in the cockpit. It offers up to 20 hours of battery life in GPS mode and up to 12 days in smartwatch mode. It comes with a leather wristband and a sporty silicone band.

By Inside GNSS
March 6, 2020

Rescue Satellite Makes Space Navigation History

In late February, Northrop Grumman’s Mission Extension Vehicle MEV-1 autonomously docked with another satellite in geostationary orbit in space, making navigation history.  It simultaneously took the next step in satellite operation by extending Intelsat 901’s lifetime beyond its original plan. The so-called “rescue satellite,” built by Northrop Grumman subsidiary Space Logistics, used a combination of traditional ranging, optical orbit determination from ground, and on-board sensors (visible, infrared, and LiDAR)  for relative navigation in space to make its ultra-precise rendezvous 35,786 km above Earth.

The successful operation means a potential sea change in satellite operation: their lifetimes can be extended, and defunct satellites can be moved to safer orbit even after their fuel supplies are exhausted.

The complex series of maneuvers to bring the two satellites together began with an October 2019 launch of the MEV-1. Northrop Grumman controllers undertook a series of engine burns to raise MEV-1’s orbit from its highly elliptical geostationary transfer orbit up to a circular orbit 300 km above the geosynchronous belt. Shortly thereafter, Intelsat decommissioned its satellite 901, and it used the last of its propellant to move into the GEO graveyard orbit.

MEV-1 approached.

For 19 days, MEV-1 advanced upon and withdrew from Intelsat 901, calibrating its navigation sensors: optical cameras, infrared cameras and side-scanning LiDAR to orient and position itself relative to Intelsat 901.

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Images courtesy Northrop Grumman.

For the final delicate and very precise maneuver, on February 25 MEV-1 autonomously flew to 20-meter distance, pausing before resuming travel to the critical 1-meter docking position. It autonomously extended a docking probe, engaging an engine nozzle aboard Intelsat 901. A nozzle, by the way, that was never designed for docking purposes.

MEV-1 then extended a group of internal grippers to anchor the two satellites together.

The satellite duo are now jointly performing stack on-orbit checkouts. Later this month, MEV-1 will relocating the two of them to a GEO spot over the central Atlantic, where Intelsat 901 will take over services for another Intelsat satellite, providing C-band service in the Americas, Europe, and Africa.

MEV-1 will then, like the Lone Ranger, bid farewell to Intelsat 901 and move on to a new mission.

By Inside GNSS
February 24, 2020

Seven Solutions to Demo Alternate Precision Time-Keeping for DOT

Seven Solutions Sociedad Limitada, based in Granada, Spain, was one of 11 firms selected by the Department of Transportation to demonstrate GPS backup technologies, with tests to take place in March. The company provides time as a service, remote timing monitoring, GPS jamming protection and solutions for intra- and inter-datacenter synchronization, with up to sub-nanosecond precision.

Its core technology, White Rabbit, functions in both local and wide-area deployments. It provides a very stable time references over fiber in GPS-denied scenarios as a backup source or to complement other PNT solutions that require precise time and timing distribution.

[This story is the second in a series of 11 detailing technology from firms selected by the Department of Transportation (DOT) in August 2019 to demonstrate technologies that could be used to back up the services provided by GPS should GPS signals be jammed, spoofed or unavailable.  See also Echo Ridge.]

Critical industrial, financial, military and governmental applications increasingly require accurate, reliable, and traceable signals for time and synchronization. Key fields of application include banking and finance, telecom networks and electricity grids. Accurate clocks across different nodes make possible key functions like consistency, event ordering, causality and the scheduling of tasks and resources with precise timing.

Two previous Inside GNSS stories explore in considerable technical detail White Rabbit’s functions and performance results. One describes a time service for the Madrid Stock Exchange, distributed using the White Rabbit network protocol over optical fiber. Scalable, Traceable Time for Datacenters explains a White Rabbit integration with GNSS.

In finance and e-commerce, clock synchronization is crucial for determining transaction order: a trading platform needs to match bids and offers in the order in which they were placed, even if they entered the trading platform from different gateways. In distributed databases, accurate clock synchronization allows a database to enforce external consistency and improves the throughput and latency of the database.

Network Time Protocol (NTP), the popular clock synchronization protocol via internet, is cheap and easy to deploy, but its accuracy is typically in the millisecond range. The Precision Timing Protocol (PTP) provides an accuracy of around 100 nanoseconds in a local, fully “PTP-enabled” network. If the network hardware is not fully PTP-enabled, synchronization accuracy can degrade by a factor of 1,000. Both NTP and PTP perform poorly under high network load.

White Rabbit is a collaborative project for the development of a new Ethernet-based technology to ensure sub-nanosecond synchronization and deterministic data transfer. The project uses an open-source paradigm for the development of its hardware, gateware and software components. Core hardware designs and source code are publicly available.

To achieve sub-nanosecond synchronization, White Rabbit uses Synchronous Ethernet (SyncE) for syntonization (frequency transfer), and IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol (PTP) to communicate time. A two-way exchange of the PTP synchronization messages allows precise adjustment of clock phase and offset. The link delay is known precisely via accurate hardware timestamps and the calculation of delay asymmetry. White Rabbit extends PTP in a backwards-compatible way to achieve sub-nanosecond accuracy. White Rabbit was originally conceived for synchronization of more than 1,000 nodes via fiber or copper connections of up to 10 km, but coverage of longer distances has been already achieved.

Currently, Seven Solutions provides industrial-grade solutions to address time synchronization requirements for the next generation of financial markets. In 2018, the Deutsche Börse, the German stock market, deployed and tested White Rabbit for accurate timing in the monitoring infrastructure for its trading network.

Deutsche Börse uses Seven Solutions’ products to synchronize their packet capture and timestamping devices across the entire datacenter with precision. This time transfer solutions allows to accurately measure the time elapsed from the order and quote entry to market data being delivered to distributed sites in the datacenter.

Eduardo Ros, Co-founder of Seven Solutions, said “The time distribution accuracy in the range of the nanoseconds matches the most demanding customers’ requirements in the finance segment. Deutsche Börse is pioneering the use of ultra-accurate time distribution over the datacenter towards continuously measuring latency over the network and enhance monitoring and analysis tools. Our solution for time transfer based on the White Rabbit concept allows a multi-protocol and multivendor solution, in which different equipment can benefit of ultra-accurate time distribution interoperability.”

Andreas Lohr, Derivatives and Cash Trading IT of Deutsche Börse, added: “Time distribution across physically separate datacenter modules – all of which are a considerable distance apart from one another – is a difficult problem. Seven Solutions proved to be a reliable business partner and delivered the technology that allows us to discipline clocks of our packet capture and time-stamping devices with sub-nanoseconds precision. We now have visibility in our network never seen before.”

 

 

By Inside GNSS
February 5, 2020

European Space Agency Looks at 2020

European Space Agency (ESA) top brass welcomed journalists to the Agency’s headquarters in Paris for its annual New Year’s press launch. On hand was the Director General as well as ESA’s Galileo guru Paul Verhoef, who spoke one-on-one with Inside GNSS.

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By Peter Gutierrez
February 3, 2020

Characterizing GNSS Interference from Low-Earth Orbit

2017 and 2018 saw unprecedented GNSS interference activity, from the eastern Mediterranean to Norway and Finland. Syria emerged as a testbed for electronic warfare capabilities. In April 2018, General Raymond Thomas, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, referred to the region as “the most aggressive electronic warfare environment on the planet.”

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By Inside GNSS
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