SpacePNT to develop GPS/Galileo receiver for Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft

May 19, 2021  - By

Swiss company SpacePNT will develop an advanced spaceborne GPS/Galileo receiver to demonstrate for lunar navigation and positioning.

A vision of the NAVIMOON receiver. (Image: SpacePNT)

A vision of the NAVIMOON receiver. (Image: SpacePNT)

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected SpacePNT to develop an advanced spaceborne GPS/Galileo receiver to demonstrate the use of terrestrial satellite navigation signals or real-time and autonomous orbit determination and positioning, navigation and timing (PNT).

The receiver will be carried aboard the ESA-SSTL Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft, which will be placed in orbit around the Moon.

The contract includes the development, qualification and delivery of one proto-flight model (PFM) and two engineering models of the NAVIMOON receiver. NAVIMOON is the high-sensitivity version of SpacePNT’s NAVILEO high-performance GNSS spaceborne receiver.

The NAVIMOON receiver implements high-sensitivity algorithms able to receive and process signals extremely attenuated coming from the spillover (side lobes) around the Earth of signals transmitted by satellite navigation systems. It combines these signals’ measurements with advanced on-board orbital filters to achieve onboard the spacecraft in real time an unprecedented target orbit determination accuracy of 100 meters root-mean-square (rms) at Moon altitude, which is well above the typical accuracy that can be achieved with terrestrial radio ranging that involves the use of costly deep-space-station ground infrastructures.

Given the high interest in Moon exploration and colonization (more than 50 commercial and governmental missions have been announced between now and 2024), it is expected that this NAVIMOON receiver technology will play a significant role in the next decade not only on Earth-Moon transfer orbits, but also to provide enhanced PNT services for users on the Moon. Deployment of a lunar constellation will allow the provision of lunar navigation in Moon-obstructed areas.

For this project, SpacePNT will partner with EECL from the UK. EECL will work as a subcontractor and bring significant space expertise to the electronics design, manufacturing and qualification of the receiver.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.