Jan 2022 | No Comment

GIOVE-A, Galileo Pathfinder satellite, de-commissioned

Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL) has successfully de-commissioned GIOVE-A, the pathfinder satellite for Europe’s Galileo constellation, after 16 years of operations in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). The decision to decommission the satellite was made due to the obsolescence in computing systems required for the operation of GIOVE-A, and de-commissioning of the spacecraft took place on 24 November 2021.

GIOVE-A was designed, built and tested by SSTL in only 30 months for the European Space Agency (ESA) and was launched on 28 December 2005 with a mission to secure vital frequency filings, generate the first Galileo navigation signals in space, characterize a prototype rubidium atomic clock, and model the radiation environment of MEO for future Galileo spacecraft. It was the first European satellite launched into the demanding MEO radiation environment, where it greatly out-performed its 27-month design lifetime.

Sandia’s Atomic ‘Avocado’ could allow GPS-free navigation

Sandia National Laboratories has developed the core technology needed to create small enough quantum sensors to potentially free the US military (and civilians around the world) from reliance on GPS satellites for way-finding, according to lab officials.

The first-of-its-kind device, a passively pumped vacuum chamber for containing clouds of atomic particles that drive quantum sensors, is about the size of an avocado, according to an Oct. 26 news release from the Albuquerque-based US nuclear research lab. According to Sandia scientist Peter Schwindt, while lab researchers hadn’t weighed the device, “If I had to guess, it is less than one pound.”

That is small enough to enable highly accurate quantum positioning, timing and navigation (PNT) systems that in the future could be carried on vehicles, aircraft, satellites or even soldiers’ backpacks — providing an alternate, or even a replacement, for GPS satellites, which use highly accurate atomic clocks for PNT measurements. Quantum sensors, based on lasers, already are being tested in laboratories around the world, but Schwindt cautioned that there is still development work — not just on vacuum chambers — to be done to be able to use them as replacements for GPS.

Terry Moore wins international navigation award from IAIN

Terry Moore, a positioning and navigation expert at the University of Nottingham has become the first British academic to win a prestigious international award in the field. He is an Emeritus Professor and former director of the Nottingham Geospatial Institute at the University’s Faculty of Engineering.

The International Association of Institutes of Navigation (IAIN) awarded Moore with its John Harrison Award for outstanding contributions to navigation. The award ceremony took place during a special session of the Navigation 2021 Conference in Edinburgh, which took place Nov. 16-18.

ASI completes the New National GNSS Frame Network

Construction of the New National GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Frame Network of the Italian Space Agency (ASI) has been completed. This infrastructure is of vital importance in providing up-to-date, accurate geodetic information for the scientific community and professional and entrepreneurial operators. The new network was built by e-GEOS.

Through the use of latest-generation technologies, 46 stations distributed evenly across the Italian peninsula will enable the acquisition of signals generated by all the global satellite navigation systems, such as the US GPS, the Russian GLONASS, the Chinese Beidou and Europe’s Galileo. ASI’s GNSS network, which was designed and developed to provide indispensable support for the global geodetic networks (such as the International GNSS Service IGS and the EUropean REference Frame EUREF), will produce data for the management of the International Terrestrial Reference Frame (ITRF). What’s more, it will make a variety of products and services possible: from determining the orbits of GNSS satellites (with an accuracy to the nearest centimetre) to time synchronizing them (better than one nanosecond), useful both for applications on-site as well as to support satellites equipped with GNSS receivers.

The new network will enable ASI and e-GEOS to intensify and fine-tune the joint scientific and operational development under way for the last 25 years at the ASI Space Centre in Matera in the field of meteorology, as well as the study of climate change and space weather. Specifically, the network will enable the provision to the national supply chain – from research centres to SMEs, universities and major corporations – of products and services that are useful for developing innovative, highprecision positioning applications, which can be implemented in a wide variety of sectors: from professional applications to those in the field of precision farming.

In order to contribute to scientific activities, some stations in the new GNSS network have been installed in particularly significant locations where purpose-designed structures are already present. These include, for instance: the ASI Space Centre in Matera, home to the Matera Laser Ranging Observatory MLRO and a VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) antenna whose data are used for accurate space geodesy measurements; ASI’s new SDSA (Sardinia Deep Space Antenna) operations base in San Basilio (Cagliari), where the Sardinia Radio Telescope SRT built by INAF can be found – a versatile instrument for radio astronomy, geodynamic studies and space science; the European Gravitational Observatory EGO in Cascina (Pisa), which plays host to the large VIRGO interferometer built to detect gravitational waves; as well as several Italian Air Force bases, home to weather stations.

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