These days, satellite positioning systems play a fundamental role in our society. We are constantly surrounded by this technology, and it has been fully integrated into our lives. It has multiple applications, and its potential uses continue to expand into a wide variety of industries such as communications, security, and transportation. In fact, it has now become difficult to imagine a world without positioning systems.

Miguel Romay, Satellite Navigation Systems General Manager of GMV

GMV began working on positioning systems at the end of the 1980s, not long after the company was founded in 1984. Its first developments were focused on precise orbit determination for satellites using GPS (the positioning system used in the United States), as a way to facilitate the use of positioning systems for non‑military applications. At the beginning of the 1990s, GMV began to work with the first positioning receivers, as a way to apply positioning systems in the area of fleet management.

We have an extensive track record of working with navigation systems. Specifically, GMV has played a key role in developing the European EGNOS and Galileo navigation systems from the very beginning, by participating in the design and definition phases, and it has also developed some of the most critical elements of those systems.

GMV has also dedicated substantial efforts to research, development, and innovation (R&D+i), in order to apply positioning systems in other areas such as aeronautics, intelligent transportation systems, and defense and security. Currently, GMV has become a top company in the field of navigation, developing its own systems as well as applications used for the operation of global navigation satellite system (GNSS) services. GMV continues to lead the way in terms of innovation, and in finding ways to apply positioning systems in other industries.

1. GMV recently entered into an agreement to provide satellite navigation and precise positioning services in Australia and New Zealand, in the context of the SouthPAN system. What does that project involve, and what role is GMV playing in it?

The Southern Positioning Augmentation Network system, known as SouthPAN, is a joint initiative of the Australian and New Zealand governments to provide a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) for navigation and precise point positioning (PPP) services, the first system with these characteristics available in the Southern Hemisphere. With this new program, Australia and New Zealand will be contributing to improved global coverage and interoperability for services of this type by joining the list of countries and regions that already have their own SBAS systems, such as the USA (WAAS), Europe (EGNOS), India (GAGAN), and Japan (MSAS).

The consortium implementing SouthPAN and providing the services is led by Lockheed Martin. Within this consortium, GMV will develop two key subsystems for SouthPAN: the Corrections Processing Facility (CPF) and the Ground Control Centre (GCC). The company will also be responsible for monitoring the region’s system and ensuring that it complies with the committed performance levels. In addition, GMV will support the system’s operation and maintenance.

The CPF is in charge of generating correction messages for the signals transmitted by the GPS and Galileo satellites. This process improves precision for the system’s users by producing accuracy to as little as 10 centimeters. The CPF is also responsible for detecting malfunctions in the satellites and generating warnings for the users. This will allow civilian aircraft to use SouthPAN as a navigation system during various flight operations, including precision approaches to runways for landing. Safety-of-life services such as these will be available in 2028.

The GCC, in turn, remains in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will perform all the functions needed to monitor and control the system. It will also inform the community of users about the system’s operation and the availability of its services.

Figure 1. Graphical SouthPAN system view

2. SouthPAN will improve positioning precision and reliability, and this will in turn facilitate the development of innovative technologies and drive economic growth in the Australasia region. Which industries will benefit the most?

Figure 2. Economic benefits of SouthPAN services in the Australasia region

One of the most appealing features of SouthPAN is that using the services provided through the space signals does not require any other additional equipment or infrastructure than the user terminal and, in consequence, can bring added value even in remote areas without ground communication coverage.

SouthPAN will provide direct benefits to Australia and New Zealand in multiple sectors. Those that will benefit from the initiative include agriculture, resources, industry, road, and transportation (maritime, aviation and rail).

In an economic benefit report commissioned by FrontierSI in 2019 based on the results obtained during an extensive demonstration campaign, it was estimated that these services would impact AUD 7.6 billion on the Australian and New Zealand economies over 30 years.

3. In your opinion, what were the factors that Lockheed Martin considered before deciding to rely upon GMV for a system with these characteristics?

As I mentioned before, for 25 years GMV has been working on the development of navigation systems, including precise point positioning (PPP) systems and signal augmentation systems, specifically those known as satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS), and both of these are essential aspects for complying with the service requirements. Our technological know-how and our experience in the navigation industry were key factors that helped give rise to our alliance with Lockheed Martin.

The relationship between Lockheed Martin and GMV began in the spring of 2015 when we initiated our joint work on concept development and production of demonstrators for the SBAS and PPP systems in various regions, including the Asia-Pacific region.

4. This is a contract with major relevance in the space industry. What challenges does it present for GMV? What opportunities will it generate, and what impact will it have on your organization in the upcoming years?

For GMV, SouthPAN will be very valuable in terms of our organization’s evolution and growth, and also in terms of our strategic position.

SouthPAN is essential because it helps consolidate GMV’s status as a worldwide leader in satellite navigation while strengthening our relationship with a top-tier partner like Lockheed Martin. It is also opening up navigation markets for GMV, not only in Australia and New Zealand but also worldwide. It is worth emphasizing that this is the first tangible milestone on our path towards a new business model, where SBAS capabilities are being provided to national governments as a service, rather than as turnkey systems.

The size of this project, which has a budget of €180 million, is also very noteworthy, because it is the second-largest contract in our organization’s history, and the largest contract from outside of the European Union entered into by any company in the Spanish space industry.

In addition, the project will generate more than 100 jobs with very high added value, in an international work environment. These will represent excellent opportunities for professionals and technicians in a variety of specializations, and most of these jobs will be in Spain.

5. GMV has been ranked as the sixth largest industrial group and largest mid-cap company in the European space industry. It is also the world’s top supplier of control centers for commercial satellite operators, and one of the industry leaders for strategic space programs such as EGNOS and Galileo. What are some of the areas that GMV’s activities cover? What are some of its current projects?

GMV has been working in the space industry for almost 40 years. In fact, next year we will be celebrating our 40th anniversary. During that entire period, GMV has never stopped growing and diversifying its activities, not just in the space industry but in others as well. I think that the transfer of space technologies into other industries has been a key aspect of the company’s growth, with some notable examples of those other industries being transportation, healthcare, cybersecurity, and automotive. And that growth has always been based on satisfying the needs of our clients through innovation.

In the space industry, GMV is undeniably a leader in the field of satellite navigation and control centers, and the company continues to play an important role in the main European space programs, and also in numerous commercial projects in various industries.

But at GMV, our activities go even further, and we are able to have a significant presence in other areas such as Earth observation, flight systems, robotics, space debris tracking, critical software development, mission centers, cybersecurity, etc.

6. How does GMV see its future in the space industry during the upcoming years?

Our mission has always been to provide technologically innovative products and services, with guaranteed quality and delivery times for all of the services we offer. Our goal is to establish relationships with our clients based on trust.

Currently, GMV has an outstanding team consisting of more than 3,000 highly qualified employees. The efforts dedicated by our professionals, and their ability to find innovative solutions for each of the challenges we encounter, allow us to look toward the future with great enthusiasm.

Our aim is to continue taking on new challenges while applying the required quality standards so that we can further consolidate our leadership position in our key strategic business areas. SouthPAN is a good example of this. It is an achievement that will allow us to continue with our strategy of expanding our business and our workforce.