Feb 2020 | No Comment

ISRO’s NavIC will support Qualcomm

Qualcomm has released three new chipsets that will come with support for India’s NavIC satellites — developed by ISRO. Support for NavIC will be seen on Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 720G, 662 and 460. These are budget to midtier performing chipsets that will be seen on upcoming budget-friendly smartphones.

Galileo now replying to SOS messages worldwide

For three decades the Cospas–Sarsat system has used relays on satellites such as Europe’s MSG and MetOp to pick up distress calls from ships and aircraft.

As well as providing global navigation services, Europe’s Galileo satellite constellation is contributing to saving more than 2000 lives annually by relaying SOS messages to first responders. And from now on the satellites will reply to these messages, assuring people in danger that help is on the way.

This ESA-design “return link” system, unique to Galileo, was declared operational recently. The delivery time for the return link acknowledgment messages from initial emergency beacon activation is expected to be a couple of minutes in the majority of cases, up to 30 minutes maximum, depending primarily on the time it takes to detect and locate the alert.

All but the first two out of 26 Galileo satellites carry a Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue package. At only 8 kg in mass, these lifesaving payloads consume just 3% of onboard power, with their receive-transmit repeater housed next to the main navigation antenna.

Galileo’s Search and Rescue service is Europe’s contribution to Cospas-Sarsat, operated by the European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency, GSA, and designed and developed at ESA. As the overall Galileo system architect and design authority, ESA has been responsible for the interface between the core Galileo infrastructure to the Return Link Service Provider facility,procured by the European Commission and operated by French space agency CNES.

The Cospas-Sarsat satellite repeaters are supplemented by a trio of ground stations at the corners of Europe, known as Medium-Earth Orbit Local User Terminals (MEOLUTs), based in Norway›s Spitsbergen Islands, Cyprus and Spain›s Canary Islands and coordinated from a control center in Toulouse, France. This trio is soon to become a quartet, with a fourth station on France›s La Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean under development.

The satellites relay distress messages to these MEOLUTs, which then relay them to local search and rescue authorities. The service’s return link message capability was developed as an inherent part of the Galileo system.

Russia to modify its tracking station in Angola

The Russian Lower Parliament endorsed Russian-Angolan cooperation on space research and peaceful use of outer space, signed in April 2019 during President Joao Lourenco’s official visit to Moscow amidst plans by Roscomos to leverage the capacities of its station in Angola for data reception from Russian satellites.

The agreement includes the conditions for the exchange of information and the customs regime for special goods as well as allows the development of joint activities of both countries in the fields of space research and astrophysical research, materials science, space medicine and biology; communications, manned flights and training, as well as satellite navigation, including the deployment of GLONASS radio stations in Angola.

EU reserves four Ariane 6 rockets for Galileo navigation satellites

The European Commission has “prebooked” four launches using Europe’s nextgeneration Ariane 6 rocket. Arianespace’s first Ariane 6 mission will launch 30 small broadband satellites for startup OneWeb during the fourth quarter of 2020.

The European Commission in 2017 ordered two Ariane 62 launches for Galileo — two satellites at a time — with launches then slated for 2020 and 2021. The first of those launches slipped to 2021 due to a disagreement between ArianeGroup, Ariane 6’s manufacturer, and the European Space Agency, that delayed the start of serial production until last April.

Be ready if you lose GNSS signal, Airbus advises pilots

As operators report an increasing number of GNSS signal losses related to radio frequency interference, Airbus is reminding pilots of the consequences and required action in the cockpit.

Various reasons may explain the loss of GPS signal. It can cause the loss of some navigation and surveillance functions. Built-in redundancies maintain position computation capability.

The power of the GPS signal “is comparable to the power emitted by a 60- watt light bulb located more than 20,000 km [12,000 mi.] away from the surface of the earth; this means the signal could easily be disturbed by any ground source located near an aircraft and emitting in the GPS L1 frequency,” Airbus experts in operations, navigation and security say in a company publication focusing on safety.

The source can be a personal jammer activated in the vicinity of an airport, a protection system around a sensitive site or military activity in a conflict zone. A GPS repeater in a hangar, used for aircraft maintenance, can cause interference with actual GPS signals, the experts note. GPS spoofing and anti-drone measures have not created any problem yet, but Airbus monitors such threats.

Interference can cause the loss of GNSS position and timing. In that instance, the Flight Management System (FMS) will revert to the onboard inertial reference system (IRS) and ground-based navigation aids, such as DME and VOR (distance measuring equipment and VHF omnidirectional range). “A loss of GNSS inputs does not lead to a map shift or an erroneous position computation by the FMS. In the case of a loss of GPS signal, the FMS switches from the mixed GPS/ IRS position to an IRS-DME/DME position or IRS-VOR/DME or pure IRS, in order of priority,” the experts explain. The loss of signal was temporary in most of the reports Airbus received. Nevertheless, there is a list of a dozen systems and functions that can be affected.

The capability for required navigation performance (RNP) operations can be lost. The predictive functions of the terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) can disappear. The runway overrun protection (ROPS) system may no longer work ADS-B Out can be lost, too. If this happens in an area where such automated position reporting is required, pilots should notify air traffic control.

Use of the EU’s space assets under scrutiny of auditors

The EU currently has three space programmes: Copernicus, which provides data from earth observation satellites; Galileo, a global satellite navigation and positioning system; and EGNOS, a European regional satellite-based augmentation system used to improve the performance of global navigation satellite systems. Up to the end of 2020, total EU expenditure for the deployment of infrastructure and the operation of satellites and ground stations will amount to some €19 billion. A further €15.5 billion has been proposed by the Commission for the 2021-2027 period.

The auditors have published an Audit Preview on the EU’s space assets and their use. Audit Previews provide information on an ongoing audit task. They are designed as a source of information for those interested in the policy or programmes being audited.

The audit will assess specifically whether the Commission is promoting effectively the services provided by the EU’s main space programmes. In particular, the auditors will examine whether:

▪▪ The Commission has decided on a robust strategy regarding the use of services and data from the EU’s flagship space programmes;

▪▪ the regulatory framework in place facilitates service and data uptake;

▪▪ the Commission’s activities have actually succeeded in boosting the uptake of services and data, and;

▪▪ the Commission has set up a proper monitoring system for this purpose.

Currently, the EU has three flagship space programmes:

▪▪ Copernicus: the world’s largest earth observation programme. Operational since 2014, it currently has seven satellites in orbit. Copernicus aims to provide accurate information for use in the environment, agriculture, climate, security and maritime surveillance fields.

▪▪ EGNOS: the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service. Since 2009, this system has been supplementing the Global Positioning System (GPS) by reporting on the accuracy of its data and sending corrections for aviation, maritime and land-based navigational use.

▪▪ Galileo: Europe’s global navigation satellite system (GNSS). Launched in 1999, the programme has currently 26 satellites in orbit. Galileo aims to provide very precise navigation services.

The audit report is expected to be published towards the end of 2020.

CubeSat in Galileo receiver

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Originally devised for educational uses, they are nowadays being put to commercial and technology testing uses. The Swiss Astrocast company is assembling a constellation based on 3-unit CubeSats to serve the emerging internet of things (IoT).

Vigilant for new initiatives that foster innovation in the field of navigation, ESA navigation researchers supported Switzerland’s ETH Zurich technical university to fly a navigation payload — composed of four low-cost multi-constellation mass-market satnav receiver modules plus two antennas — aboard a test CubeSat.

This opportunity, funded through ESA’s European GNSS Evolution programme, was conceived together with ESA’s Galileo Science Advisory Committee, a group of scientists advising ESA on scientific matters related to Galileo and fostering its scientific exploitation.

This first AstroCast CubeSat was launched in December 2018, and the first results confirming the use of Galileo satellites for positioning were reported at the recent Galileo Science Colloquium in Zurich, typically demonstrating orbital positioning precision down to less than 5 m.

ESA’s Galileo Navigation Science Office and GNSS Evolution are looking into extending this pioneering experience to perform more CubeSat-based experiments in space to test ideas for evolutions of European satnav systems and scientific experiments with Galileo, in partnership with universities and research institutions

Spire Global shares early data from GNSS Reflectometry satellites

Spire Global shared early data from new GNSS Reflectometry cubesats at the American Meteorological Society conference. With its existing fleet of more than 80 cubesats, it gathers GNSS radio occultation weather data in addition to tracking ships and airplanes. The European Space Agency’s Pioneer program, which supports demonstration of new technologies, systems and services, helped fund Spire’s GNSS Reflectometry program.

Spire’s first two GNSS Reflectometry cubesats are technology demonstrators. It is developing two more GNSS Reflectometry cubesats to launch later this year. With the second pair of GNSS Reflectometry cubesats, Spire plans to offer sustained monitoring of soil moisture and ocean winds. The data will have important applications for weather forecasting, agriculture, drought monitoring and flood prediction, Masters said.

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