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NASA Navigator detects GPS satellite constellation from Lunar distances

by Russel 2012-01-11 13:05

NASA Navigator Magnetospheric MissionFor spacecraft operating above the GPS constellation, which is about thirteen thousand miles above Earth in an area normally referred to as high-Earth orbit, the onboard GPS navigation for spaceflight operations at geosynchronous orbits has been extremely challenging. Existing GPS receivers could not adequately pick up the GPS signal, which is transmitted toward Earth to serve millions of GPS navigator devices widely used in terrestrial applications. However. the constellation does not transmit GPS signals away from Earth and into the open space. As a result, spacecraft above the GPS constellation could not reliably detect GPS signals for tracking and navigational purposes, which is the case with many upscale projects forcing them to use much more expensive ground-tracking assets. 

High orbiter spacecraft use weak signal GPS Nasa NavigatorOpen space exploration and high-altitude science missions are relying on the expensive ground stations to track high altitude geosynchronous spacecraft. Scientists have discovered an alternative, which at fraction of cost offers same or better navigation performance in weak-signal and highly dynamic environments, such as space projects with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To help lower mission costs NASA Navigator research and development group developed new GPS signal-processing algorithms and sophisticated hardware for a ultra high orbiter spacecraft GPS receiver. The innovative GPS device and tracking method is used for spacecraft orbiting much higher than GPS constellation, as far as at Lunar distances.

Spacecraft operating in weak-signal areas, such as geosynchronous orbits where global communications and weather satellite services spacecrafts typically operate, will be able to acquire and track the weak GPS signals to determine their locations. The next-generation GPS navigator receiver can acquire the GPS signal even if the spacecraft carrying the receiver is located at lunar distances to maintain their precise orbital position.

The task which seem to be impossible with existing GPS receivers as they could not recognize  signals of GPS constellation satellites in the open space, has been solved by Navigator GPS receiver. With new technology spacecraft orbiting well above the constellation will be able to reliably use low strength GPS signals for tracking and navigational purposes, instead of using expensive ground-tracking assets. The new enabling navigation technology, the NASA Navigator provides accurate positioning, navigation, and timing services. The solution  will be used in the Magnetosphere research missions. The sensitivity of the Navigator GPS receiver is so high that it would allow spaceship to acquire and track weak GPS signals at an altitude of over sixty two thousand miles above the Earth.  Lunar Orbiter acquires Earth GPS constellation with NASA NavigatorThe mission is made up of four identically instrumented spacecraft which require extremely precise positioning in a unique formation in a very high-altitude Earth orbit, while measuring the three dimensional structure and dynamics of Earth’s protective magnetosphere. The mission relies on the newly invented weak-signal Navigator GPS receiver with improved sensitivity to help the Magnetospheric MultiScale mission spacecraft maintain their precise orbital position. 

NASA Navigator GPS receiver has been instrumental in a unique experiment carried out during the last Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission. The radar measurements of GPS signals that were reflected off the Hubble telescope were used for range estimates during docking and undocking, proving a key relative navigation sensing technology for a robotic rendezvous with the Hubble in the future.

NASA Hubble Mission uses NASA Navigator

The invention will serve as the primary navigation sensor on NASA’s Global Precipitation Measurement Mission, which will study global rain and snowfall when it launches in 2013. The Air Force Research Laboratory is planning to use a Navigator engineering test unit in its Plug-and-Play spacecraft, an experimental satellite that has modular structure with an interchangeable components that easily hook together. The Navigator's revolutionary signal-processing design will be also used in an engineering test unit to the next-generation weather satellite which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration plans to launch in 2015. 

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