RUAG Space: Ten times more accurate satellite positioning

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A new software from RUAG Space for its GNSS receivers makes it possible to determine the position of a satellite in orbit ten times more accurately. The more precise the position, the more accurate the satellite data e.g. about our climate. And better satellite navigation helps to avoid space debris.

Every day, satellites provide important data for climate and environmental research. The more precise the satellite data, the more accurate the scientists’ predictions. That is why RUAG Space, a world leader in precise orbit determination of satellites, is working on a study for the European Union to determine the position of satellites more precisely, which in turn will enable better satellite data on climate change, for example.

Determining a satellite’s real-time position down to 10 centimeters

A new software for RUAG Space’s navigation receiver makes it possible to determine the satellite’s real-time position ten times more accurately. “This is a quantum leap in high-precision satellite positioning,” says Anders Linder, head of the global satellites business at RUAG Space. © RUAG Space

RUAG Space recently conducted its first software tests on Earth. This involved testing a new software, developed by RUAG Space, with an existing navigation receiver for satellites under simulated space conditions. “The result was impressive,” says Anders Linder, Senior Vice President Program Satellites at RUAG Space. “We were able to determine the satellite’s real-time position ten times more accurately than previously possible.” Position accuracy improved from about 100 centimeters to 10 centimeters. “This is a quantum leap in high-precision satellite positioning.”

New software processes new Galileo signal

The higher accuracy was achieved with a new software program. To determine the exact position of satellites in orbit, RUAG Space’s latest navigation receivers use the signals from the European Galileo navigation satellites and the U.S. GPS system. The software can also process an additional position signal from the European Galileo navigation satellites. “There is currently untapped potential in the Galileo satellites,” explains Anders Linder. Galileo satellites transmit several signals. On one of these signals, a new service, the High Accuracy Service (HAS), will enable significantly improved positioning. This service will be available in 2022.

“A software update can be played on navigation receivers already in space as well as receivers we have already delivered to customers and which are still on Earth,” says Anders Linder. The hardware of the devices remains unchanged. RUAG Space for example already delivered the GNSS receiver “PODRIX” for ESA’s Sentinel-1C environmental satellite. The European Space Agency (ESA) is having its satellite upgraded with this new software for in-orbit validation of the satellite. The Sentinel-1C satellite is scheduled for launch in 2022.

More accurate positioning avoids satellite collisions and space debris

More accurate data about a satellite’s position in orbit also helps prevent satellites from colliding in space, thus helping to avoid space debris. When satellites collide in orbit, a lot of space debris is created. Due to the high speed in orbit, even the smallest debris particles pose a huge threat to other satellites. “The more precisely the position of a satellite is known, the better a potential accident can be predicted and, for example, evasive maneuvers can be carried out,” emphasizes Anders Linder.

New navigation system for satellite swarms

A new software for RUAG Space’s navigation receiver makes it possible to determine the real-time position of a satellite in orbit ten times more accurately. © RUAG Space

In the coming years, the launch of many satellite swarms of hundreds to thousands of small satellites in low-Earth orbit is planned. For such swarms of identical satellites, RUAG Space is developing a low-cost navigation receiver that is lighter and smaller than conventional GNSS receivers and already includes the new software with processing of the Galileo signal HAS as standard. The new space-borne receiver called “NavRix PinPoint” is more cost-effective due to the use of standardized electronic components.

Study completed in 2022

At the beginning of 2021, the Prague-based European Union Space Programme Agency awarded a research contract to RUAG Space. The aim of the study is to increase the positioning accuracy of satellites. The study will be completed in 2022. More about the study: https://www.ruag.com/en/newspaper

RUAG Space: Leading supplier to the space industry

RUAG Space is the leading supplier to the space industry in Europe, and has a growing presence in the United States. Around 1,300 employees across six countries (Switzerland, Sweden, Austria, Germany, USA and Finland) develop and manufacture products for satellites and launch vehicles—for both the institutional and commercial space market. RUAG Space is part of RUAG International, a Swiss technology group. Visit www.ruag.com/space, or view RUAG Space’s product portfolio video: https://youtu.be/qNbSjUdlXxQ