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The System: Michibiki Takes Up Station and Other GNSS Constellation Updates

September 1, 2010  - By

As this issue goes to press in late August, the first Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) space
vehicle, nicknamed Michibiki, holds steady for a September 11 launch.

QZSS will use multiple satellites in inclined orbits, placed so that one satellite always appears near zenith above Japan, well known for its high-rise cities. The design provides high-accuracy satellite positioning service covering almost all of the country, including urban canyons and mountainous terrain.

QZSS Phase One will validate technological enhancement of GPS availability, performance, and application. Phase Two will demonstrate full system capability using three QZSS satellites, including Michibiki.

The satellites will generate and transmit their own signals, compatible with modernized GPS signals. QZSS also transmits GPS corrections and availability data.

Michibiki Profile. Dual-box shape with wing-type solar-array paddles; overall dimensions, 2.9 x 3.1 x 6.2 meters, paddles extending 25.3 meters; weight approximately 4,000 kilograms; altitude approximately 32,000–40,000 kilometers; inclination approximately 40 degrees;
period, 23 hours 56 minutes.

Compass. In early August, the first Beidou/Compass inclined geosynchronous orbit (IGSO) satellite achieved near-geosynchronous orbit. The mean east longitude of the sub-satellite ground point is currently 117 degrees, 19 minutes (see figure 1). This is one of the first, if not the first, satellite to use such a highly inclined circular geosynchronous orbit.


Figure 1. Left, the orbit path of three QZSS satellites will eventually keep at least one of them directly over Japan at all times. Right, the inclined geosynchronous orbit of the fifth Compass satellite, launched in July, has a similar ground track and mission goal.

Multi-GNSS Campaign. An international collaboration is poised to take advantage of a coming proliferation of satellites, led by Compass and QZSS but also including GPS, GLONASS, and Galileo, over the Asia/Pacific region. The website states, “The Asia and Oceania region is a unique place where the number of usable modernized navigation satellites will increase much faster than other areas in the world. We will see great improvement of PNT capability and hence there is a great opportunity to try, test, and validate new receiver hardware, algorithms, and applications in order to address user requirements.”

The web page also carries an animation of the availability of more than 100 GNSS space vehicles that will operate over the region in the next decade. An initial campaign workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, in January drew 195 participants from 18 countries. A second workshop is scheduled for November 21–22 in Melbourne, Australia.

GLONASS September. Three GLONASS-M satellites to be launched on September 2 completed pre-launch testing and mating to the upper stage of the booster rocket at Baikonur Cosmodrome. Numbered 36, 37, and 38, the satellites will constitute the Block 42 triad.

GPS III Design: Done. The Lockheed Martin team developing GPS III has successfully completed the program’s Critical Design Review (CDR) phase, two months ahead of baseline schedule. CDR completion validates the detailed GPS III design to ensure it meets warfighter and civil requirements. It culminates many rigorous assembly, subsystem, element, space vehicle and system-level CDR events, validates the overall design maturity of the GPS III space vehicle, and allows Lockheed Martin to enter production phase. Col. Bernard J. Gruber, U.S. Air Force GPS Wing Commander, certified the completion. Lockheed Martin, ITT, and General Dynamics are working under a $3 billion development and production contract for up to 12 GPS IIIA satellites. The team is on track to launch the first GPS IIIA satellite in 2014.

GPS Interface Specs. New IS-GPS-200E, IS-GPS-705A, and IS-GPS-800A documents have been posted to
SVN62 Rubidium Clock. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory issued a preliminary report on the rubidium atomic clock currently in use on the SVN62 Block IIF satellite. While documenting excellent short-term performance, the report notes anomalous fluctuations in the clock signal with distinct 12-hour and 6-hour periodicities. The exact cause has not been identified although it is speculated that the fluctuations are of thermal origin like SVN-62’s L5 phase variance detected earlier. But note that the clock signal analysis relies only on L1 and L2 measurements.

GPS IIF Got Active. The 50th Space Wing’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron formally took over command and control of the first Block IIF satellite on August 26 from the GPS Wing, and the satellite was set healthy on August 27, making 31 healthy GPS satellites on orbit.

Advisory Board Update
GPS World Editorial Advisory Board member Art Gower has been elected a Lockheed Martin Fellow, an honor recognizing pre-eminent technical individual contributors in the company, delivering mission success and vision by undertaking the most difficult technical challenges facing the company and its customers. Art started his career with IBM Federal Systems Division (now part of Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems and Global Solutions) in 1983, developing displays and performing navigation upload and command and control system engineering for the GPS control segment, and becoming chief engineer for the GPS control segment in 1990. He has spent the majority of his career working on GPS, GNSS, and SBAS systems.

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About the Author:

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

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