The System: Accuracy from LEO birds improves

March 5, 2018  - By

Accuracy from LEO Birds Improves

Results from new tests of the Satellite Time and Location (STL) service, using equipment configurations with a differential source and with a more accurate OCXO clock, show timing accuracy of 160 nanoseconds.

The STL service uses a signal from the low-Earth orbit (LEO) Iridium constellation.

In 2016, Satelles demonstrated sub-microsecond timing using a stand-alone TCXO-based receiver (see “Innovation: Navigation from LEO,” July 2017 GPS World).

New testing employed three different configurations of equipment, services and environment, including a Stanford Research Systems (SRS) rubidium vapor frequency reference, based on the PRS10 module, and a Satelles Evaluation Kit (EVK2) STL receiver, comprising a Maxim RF chip, Xylinx Spartan-3 FPGA, TI dual-core DSP chip, and internal OCXO (oven-controlled crystal oscillator) or external clock.

Parameters and equipment for the three tests are:

  1. Optimal. Outdoor antenna, Rubidium clock powered on for months prior to data collection, receiver configured in static mode with a known location, and high-quality antenna.
  2. Sub-optimal. Indoor antenna, Rubidium clock powered on six hours prior to data collection, receiver configured in static mode with an unknown location, and low-quality antenna.
  3. Three independent receivers collecting data, receiver on-board OCXO, indoor antenna, receiver configured in static mode with an unknown location, low-quality antenna. Tests performed: 10 days with no local reference station running; 10 days with local reference station, 20-kilometers away from test receivers, providing timing corrections to STL ground segment.

See Figure 1 for more extensive test results. Also see a previous article.

FIGURE 1. OCXO timing result with base station.

The 66-satellite Iridium LEO constellation transmits overlapping spot beams, which provide location-specific data that changes every few seconds.

Air Force Issues GPS III Follow-on Contract

The U.S. Air Force Space Command released its request for proposals to build 22 new GPS III satellites, called the GPS III Follow-On Phase 2 contract.

The contract will be awarded to a single bidder, and has an estimated dollar value of $10 billion including all options.

Phase 2 is planned as a single, predominantly fixed-price incentive-type contract awarded via full and open competition for production of 22 GPS III satellites. Deadline for proposals is April 16. Delivery of the first satellite is to be in 2026.

Phase 1 contracts awarded in May 2016 to Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin (builder of the first 10 GPS III satellites) “determined that viable, low-risk, high-confidence sources exist to conduct a full and open competition for Phase 2, the production of 22 GPS III SVs [space vehicles] starting in the FY19 timeframe.”

BeiDou’s Long March

On Feb. 12, BeiDou-3 28 and 29 were launched into medium-Earth orbits, following the launch of a pair of BeiDou satellites on Jan. 11. The satellites form part of a third phase of BeiDou deployment, taking BeiDou coverage from regional to covering the countries along the Belt and Road initiative by the end of 2018, and global by 2020.

Stay up-to-date with GPS World’s “Upcoming GNSS Satellite Launches” table.

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.