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Research roundup: Space and lunar applications

March 30, 2023  - By
The Moonlight initiative will provide sustainable lunar data-relay services for communication and navigation around the Moon. (ESA Moonlight Study conceptual drawing.) (Image: SSTL/Airbus/ESA)

The Moonlight initiative will provide sustainable lunar data-relay services for communication and navigation around the Moon. (ESA Moonlight Study conceptual drawing.) (Image: SSTL/Airbus/ESA)

GNSS researchers presented hundreds of papers at the 2022 Institute of Navigation (ION) GNSS+ conference, which took place Sept. 19–23 in Denver, Colorado, and virtually. The following five papers focused on lunar and space applications. The papers are available now.

MTO Navigation Using Lunar Signals

The moon transfer orbit (MTO) is becoming increasingly important as several national space agencies are planning moon exploration soon, with projects such as NASA’s Artemis. In previous research, the GPS navigation accuracy on the MTO reached 200 m at the moon altitude by using GPS signals emitted from the far side of Earth. As accuracy on a low-Earth orbit (LEO) using GPS is a few meters, 200 m accuracy is not accurate enough to support lunar exploration. The deterioration of accuracy is due to the poor geometry of the GPS satellites that became visible from the MTO.

The authors want to achieve an accuracy of less than 100 m in MTO by using other navigation sources, including the lunar navigation satellite system (LNSS) to be deployed in the moon’s orbit. The LNSS signals will come from the far side of the moon, similar to the signals of GPS satellites coming from the opposite side of Earth. Its satellites will be pointed towards the moon to provide positioning, navigation and timing services on the moon surface, especially at the lunar South Pole region

The researchers have been conducting the simulation evaluation for the MTO navigation accuracy using signals coming from the moon and assume that these signals will be emitted from beacons on the moon surface or the LNSS.

Murata, Masaya; Kogure, Satoshi; “Moon Transfer Orbit Navigation Using Signals Coming from the Moon.”

Designing the Smallsat-Based LNCSS

There is growing interest in the use of a smallsat platform for the future lunar navigation and communication satellite system (LNCSS); however, many design considerations are not finalized for the smallsat-based LNCSS, such as choice of the satellite clock, satellite orbital parameters and the constellation size.
Using the Systems Tool Kit simulation software, the authors examined various LNCSS constellation case studies based in elliptical lunar frozen orbit and with a low-grade chip-scale atomic clock.

They evaluated case studies of navigation design considerations including position and timing accuracy, lunar user equivalent ranging error, and dilution of precision. As for case studies of communications design considerations, the authors examined daily data volume, availability and data rate. Finally, they examined smallsat factors including the cost, size, weight and power of the satellite payload.

The paper includes trade-off analysis in satisfying the preliminary design criteria outlined by international space agencies and commercial space companies.

Bhamidipati, Sriramya; Mina, Tara; Sanchez, Alana; Gao, Grace; “A Lunar Navigation and Communication Satellite System with Earth-GPS Time Transfer: Design and Performance Considerations.”

Developing an SDR for Space

A geostationary satellite (GEO) equipped with the satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) function has a transmitter for GNSS correction signals at the L1 and L5 bands. This transmitter could interfere with the GNSS space service volume (SSV) receiver in the same satellite, so L1 and L5 signals cannot be used for the GEO SBAS satellite. However, the use of GPS L2C signals can be an alternative.

The authors of this paper present the development of a GPS L2C signal generator for the SSV in GEO simulation. They present the simulation process for GEO satellites and the structure of the GPS L2C signal generator.

In this study, a verification through the receiver test with a GNSS software-defined receiver is included to show the possibility of the designed signal simulator. The validation is performed by analyzing the programmable system device, the results of the acquisition, code/carrier tracking, and the C/N0 estimation.

Lee, Hak-beom; Choi, ByeongHyun; Song, Young-Jin; Won, Jong-Hoon; Kwon, Ki-Ho; “Development of GPS L2C Signal Generator for SSV in Geostationary Orbit Simulation.”

Differential Positioning on the Moon

This paper introduces a new concept of delivering the pseudorange correction calculated at a reference station on the lunar surface, as a part of the lunar navigation satellite system (LNSS) navigation message. The concept enables LNSS users to apply differential positioning using pseudorange correction without adding new hardware to their receivers.

The authors propose the differential positioning technique to reduce the signal-in-space range error of LNSS satellites and the coordinate transformation errors from Earth-centered fixed frame to lunar reference frame — the dominant errors in satellite positioning by LNSS.

The proposed reference station is equipped with instruments to externally estimate its own position relative to the lunar reference frame. The user on the lunar surface would then perform differential positioning using the station coordinate and pseudorange correction obtained at the reference station.
In this study, the simulation results using eight elliptical lunar frozen orbit satellites show that the real-mean-squared values for both horizontal and vertical positioning errors with differential correction are reduced to 1/10 of those without differential correction, even at 10 degrees latitude from the reference station at the lunar South Pole.

Akiyama, Kyohei; Murata, Masaya; Kogure, Satoshi; “Differential Positioning Performance on Lunar South Pole Region Using Lunar Navigation Satellite System.”

GEO Precise Orbit Determination

Using GPS in satellites in geostationary (GEO) orbits provides advantages by improving position, velocity and timing data, reducing operating costs and providing autonomous orbit control for station keeping. This paper presents the result of the onboard data evaluation and precise orbit determination of an optical data-relay satellite (ODRS) using GPS L1 C/A code and carrier-phase observations for 74 days.

As a result of precise orbit determination, the authors found that both code- and carrier-phase observations are affected by the ionospheric delay when signals pass through the plasmasphere located above the ionosphere.

Several methods were implemented during this research to reduce the effect of the plasmasphere, including setting a higher cut-off altitude, applying correction sequences generated from orbit determination residuals, and applying a new observation noise model depending on the GPS off-nadir angle. Results show that the correction sequences and the new noise model improve the internal orbit consistency. The authors also found that the orbit bias in radial direction due to negatively biased carrier-phase observations is mitigated from –51 cm to –17 cm by setting a higher cut-off altitude and applying correction sequences.

Matsumoto, Takehiro; Sakamoto, Takushi; Yoshikawa, Kazuhiro; Kasho, Sachiyo; Nakajima, Ayano; Nakamura, Shinichi; “GEO Precise Orbit Determination Using Onboard GPS Carrier Phase Observations of Optical Data Relay Satellite.”

About the Author: Maddie Saines

Maddie was a managing editor at GPS World.