The System: QZSS Puts L1C on the Air

December 1, 2010  - By

QZSS Puts L1C on the Air

JAVAD Receivers Track the First Truly Interoperable Signal

JAVAD GNSS engineers in Moscow have released plots of the C/A, L2C, L5, SAIF, and the new L1C signals broadcast by Japan’s QZSS Michibiki, the first satellite to transmit L1C.

The company stated that all of its current GNSS receivers can track QZSS signals with a software update that is available as an option to purchase.

A new civil signal, L1C is designed to be interoperable among GNSSs. Currently, agreements are in place between the U.S. GPS, Europe’s Galileo, and Japan’s QZSS systems regarding broadcast and use of L1C. The U.S. system is not destined to add the L1C signal until the GPS III block of satellites, still more than three years out.

The SAIF (Submeter-class Augmentation with Integrity Function) signal is a GPS augmentation with information on positioning correction and system health. The QZSS L1-C/A, L2C, L5, and L1C signals are GPS augmentation signals that can be operated reciprocally with positioning signals provided by GPS. The figures supplied by JAVAD GNSS show SNR (top) and code-minus-phase (bottom) plots for L1C.


Plot of QZSS L1C signal, SNR.

Plot of QZSS L1C signal, code minus phase (above).

EC’s Galileo Manager Discusses Progress, Interoperability

Paul Verhoef, the European Commission’s program manager for European Union (EU) satellite navigation programs, discussed current issues at length with GPS World, in a conversation on November 10. He addressed aspects of interoperability with GPS and prospects for further development in that area, the need for an ongoing political commitment by the EU to Galileo, the challenges of financing, the prospects for an 18-satellite constellation (which he dismisses as unrealistic), military considerations for both Galileo and GPS, and the recent uncertainty around Galileo’s Public Regulated Service.

The full conversation is available here. Here are a few extracted quotes:

Interoperability. “We have seen in the process with the U.S. that first of all there has been a quite clear political commitment on both sides, at the highest levels, that interoperability was wanted. Secondly, in the implementation we’ve had a very good working relation with our U.S. colleagues in order to establish that. The advantage that I see is that we have been able at a very early stage to deliver on such an interoperability agreement, that this is clear to industry, it provides for predictability. It allows industry to monitor clearly how the two systems are evolving, and when this interoperability is actually going to be available in the marketplace, and it allows them to time their investments, their R&D, their production, and all the rest.” [ . . . . ]

Challenges. “It is time that Galileo delivers something concrete. We’ve had many years of discussion behind us on whether the system will come, and if it will come, and how it will come, and what it will look like, and all the rest. For my part, I’m very happy to see that in 2011, we plan to launch.

The first four satellites are on the way; they are almost ready. About half the ground infrastructure is currently under implementation, we have every couple of months the opening of another ground station around the world. With this, the system becomes a reality, and I think once the satellite launches will go across television screens in the whole world, people will see that the system is becoming a reality. And I think that is desperately needed in order to give it a sense that things are moving forward. I’m really looking forward to that. That is a piece of good progress we have achieved over the last couple of years.

Constellation. “There is a bit of a discussion for some reason in Europe, for some reason some people seem to think that we could do away with 18 satellites. Well, from me you will hear a solid ‘No.’

“The availability figures for an 18-satellite constellation are around 90 percent on average, which means that for an aggregate total of some six weeks a year you would not receive sufficient views, not have sufficient satellites in sight to actually determine a position. There are going to be sectors like aviation where this is completely unacceptable, and they would never invest in anything if that is what we’re going to do. So my sense is that we will always have a lot of upward pressure in terms of constellation size. Of course it needs to be offset against costs and other considerations, but I think the pressure is always going to be there. It is very premature for people to be trying to take a shortcut, to think, well, maybe we could do with less. Because in the end you would have a constellation with a technical performance which the marketplace is not interested in, and then you would have a real problem.”

Click here for the full discussion, spanning many topics.

GPS Control Upgrade

The U.S. Air Force 2nd Space Operations Squadron is scheduled to release the next software upgrade for the GPS ground system in early December, as part of an ongoing effort to improve and maintain the GPS Operational Control Segment before the next-generation GPS Control Segment is deployed in 2015. The upgrade is expected to be completed in early January 2011. The upgrade does not change the navigation message and should be transparent to GPS users. Tests have shown that the navigation message produced by the new software is identical to that produced by the current ground software. While no anomalies are expected, civilians experiencing any anomalies should contact the Coast Guard Navigation Center at (703) 313-5900.

GLONASS Launch Fails

The Russian Federal Space Agency announced that the December 5 launch of three GLONASS-M satellites ended in failure when the Proton-M rocket’s Block DM upper stage and its three payloads crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) northwest of Honolulu. Although an investigation will look into the exact cause of the failure, early unconfirmed reports indicate a software error. According to the Russian News Agency RIA Novosti, incorrect calculations were loaded into the rocket’s onboard computers.

Compass Settles, Moves

The Beidou/Compass G4 satellite launched on October 31 achieved geostationary orbit by November 6. The satellite is positioned at about 160 degrees east longitude. G4 is the furthest east of the operational Beidou geostationary satellites. Meanwhile, the orbital location of the Beidou 1A satellite has been changed.

On or about October 27, as indicated by NORAD tracking data, the satellite underwent a significant delta-V, raising its orbit by about 200 kilometers. Its orbit had been slightly drifting for a few weeks before the maneuver, and there was speculation that the satellite had been placed in a disposal or graveyard orbit. However, on November 24 a second delta-V was observed that returned the satellite to the geostationary belt.

The two maneuvers placed the satellite at a new location at about 60 degrees east longitude — the furthest west of any of the Beidou satellites. The satellite may eventually end up at 58.75 degrees east, one of the Beidou orbital slots registered with the International Telecommunication Union.

The geostationary satellite, the first for the demonstration regional Beidou system or Beidou-1, was launched on October 30, 2000, and positioned at 140 degrees east longitude. Following several years of use, there were unofficial reports that the satellite was no longer functional. However, station-keeping was maintained, implying some usefulness of the satellite. It remains unclear how functional the satellite is and whether it is still useful for the Beidou-1 demonstration system.

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