Starting point / motivation
Several LEO satellite systems are being built (New Space), mainly for communications. First theoretical investigations indicate that those systems may be also used for satellite navigation in future (perhaps with minor modifications). The first full LEO system with pole-to-pole coverage of the entire earth is Iridium NEXT consisting of 75 (66+9 spares) satellites completed with the last launch of 10 satellites by SpaceX on Jan. 11, 2019.
Satelles Inc., a US company has developed a proprietary Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) signal structure using one of the available unused paging channels of Iridium NEXT. Up till now, this has been led to some considerations, mainly by the US military, to consider Iridium NEXT as a possibility for a PNT backup system to the Global Positioning System (GPS) which could be also used in the critical infrastructure of a country.
Because of the lower positioning accuracy of Iridium NEXT in the range of 20m presently, a combined PNT solution with other Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) like Galileo with < 1m positioning accuracy was not yet considered. If the old idea of Brad Parkinson´s Stanford group from 1997, using LEO observations to accelerate the resolution of GPS carrier phase ambiguities, is possible, will be explored by IGASPIN.
The point of time is favourable since Iridium NEXT was only weeks ago completed and no other research efforts are worldwide known in the specific topic of this exploratory project.
Contents and goals
IGASPIN explores the technical aspects of such a combination, both in H/W (antenna, high power of LEO signals) and in the S/W (processing of observations in Iridium-NEXT-only mode as backup for Galileo (GNSS) as well as for indoor positioning and time synchronisation because of the strong LEO signals).
Furthermore, commercial investigations in acquiring the necessary Iridium NEXT navigation signal information are discussed and business as well as legal aspects of IGASPIN in the development and marketing the corresponding planned new PNT product are treated. Finally, the potential for the development of a Galileo/Iridium NEXT S/W receiver is assessed and analysed in terms of required man power, financial efforts and risks.
IGASPIN GmbH has received the exclusive right from IFEN GmbH to further develop the S/W receiver SX3 which is able to track all GNSS. Personnel of IGASPIN has already developed various parts of that S/W receiver and is therefore very familiar with the corresponding know-how for carrying out this exploratory project.
The objective assessment of the chances and risks for a possible start of developments for a combined Galileo/Iridium NEXT S/W receiver resulting from this exploratory project helps IGASPIN to take the right business decision in this manner.
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