System of Systems: First GPS/Galileo receiver flown in space

July 27, 2017  - By

By Werner Enderle and James J. Miller

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are conducting a joint GPS/Galileo space receiver experiment onboard the International Space Station (ISS). This will be the first time that a combined GPS/Galileo receiver will operate in space.

The project aims to demonstrate the robustness of a combined GPS/Galileo waveform uploaded to NfASA hardware already operating in the challenging space environment: the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) software-defined radio testbed.

Testing activities include analysis of the GPS/Galileo signal and onboard position/velocity/time (PVT) performance; processing of code- and carrier-phase GPS/Galileo raw data for precise orbit determination (POD); and validating the added value of a space-borne dual-GNSS receiver compared to a single-system receiver under the same conditions.

This collaboration was initiated in 2014 and a Technical Understanding was signed in 2016.

Many new space applications may not be possible if constrained to using the limited signal availability associated with any single constellation of GNSS satellites.

This research therefore seeks to demonstrate the enhanced capabilities brought by the use of satellites from two or more GNSS constellations in the space domain. The net result will be more resilient space operations, greater mission flexibility, and enhanced PVT performance.

The project is currently in the testing and verification phase, and it is expected that the final implementation of the combined GPS/Galileo waveform on NASA’s SCaN Testbed on-board the ISS will be completed in September/October 2017, so that the initial operations of the first combined GPS/Galileo receiver in space can start in the October/November 2017 timeframe.

The researchers plan to present preliminary results at the UN International Committee on GNSS (ICG)-12 in Kyoto, Japan in December.

From ESA’s side, ESOC’s Navigation Support Office (NavSO) and ESTEC Experts for Radio Navigation Systems and Techniques (TEC-ESN) are involved in this project.

The overall project management from ESA’s side and POD aspects are covered by NavSO, and ESTEC’s Technical Directorate is in charge of the Galileo waveform development and implementation of the SW on the FPGA in cooperation with NASA. This activity is done with technical support from industry participants such as Qascom. Industry participation is a vital component as new markets for multi-GNSS receivers and complex space applications continue to emerge.

From NASA’s side, the project is sponsored by the Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD) at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. Integration and experimentation activities are being performed by the NASA Glenn Research Center.

NASA has initiated an international effort within the ICG to develop a fully interoperable multi-GNSS Space Service Volume (SSV), where a combination of constellation services will be available well above low-Earth orbit (LEO) to support newly emerging geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) and high-Earth orbit (HEO) missions — ranging from more precise station keeping to extend GEO belt capacity and maneuver recovery to enabling formation flyers and satellite servicing operations.


WERNER ENDERLE is head of Navigation Office, Ground Systems Engineering Department at the European Space Operations Centre of the European Space Agency.

JAMES J. MILLER is deputy director, Policy & Strategic Communications – Space Communications and Navigation in the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters.


Anomalous GPS Signals from SVN49

By Fabio Dovis, Nicola Linty, Mattia Berardo, Calogero Cristodaro, Alex Minetto, Lam Nguyen Hong, Marco Pini, Gianluca Falco, Emanuela Falletti, Davide Margaria, Gianluca Marucco, Beatrice Motella, Mario Nicola and Micaela Troglia Gamba

Researchers at the Navigation Signal Analysis and Simulation (NavSAS) Group of the Politecnico di Torino detected in mid-May the presence of anomalous spikes in the L1 signal spectrum. The origin of the spikes was identified to be transmission of a non-standard code from a non-operational GPS satellite (GPS IIF-9, SVN49). Here we report on signal observations and address possible impacts on GNSS signal processing.

On May 17, 2017, during outdoor data collection, NavSAS researchers detected two spikes in the L1 spectrum, with sufficient power to be clearly visible on a display processing raw digital samples at the receiver’s intermediate frequency.

An initial check looked for a possible interfering source in the experimental set-up, since it was quite complex with multiple pieces of electronic equipment. The likelihood of this source was soon dispelled as the same kind of spectrum was visible on a spectrum analyzer (SA) connected to an active survey-grade GNSS antenna on the lab roof; results shown in FIGURE 1.

The spectrum is centered at 1575.42 MHz, with the SA set to a frequency span of 5 MHz. Connecting the SA to different survey-grade antennas on the roof, we found no remarkable differences. The spikes continued to appear on subsequent days, becoming clearly visible around 13:00 UTC and disappearing around 19:00 UTC.

Figure 1. L1 Spectrum of the received signal at 16:51 (Central European Summer Time; 14:51 UTC) on May 19, 2017, at the NavSAS Lab, Torino (located at 45°03’54.98767″ N, 7°39’32.28920″ E, 311.9667 meters).

Exclusion of Terrestrial Sources. The 24-hour repetition period of the phenomenon, along with the shape of the spectrum, could indicate the presence of a signal anomaly from a GNSS satellite. In a battery of tests, we probed the L1 spectrum in a wider area using assorted equipment.

(For more details and figures, see the full version of this article.)

For various reasons, we ended up focusing on a non-operational satellite: SVN49, launched March 24, 2009. We concluded that transmission of a non-standard code (NSC) from this satellite was the origin of the problem in the L1 spectrum.

Transmission of NSCs for testing purposes is foreseen in the GPS Interface Specification, IS-GPS-200. GPS satellites can switch off regular broadcasts of C/A code and P/Y code and transmit a non-standard C/A code and non-standard Y code.

Such operation is intended to protect users from receiving and utilizing erroneous satellite signals in case of unhealthy conditions on the spacecraft. Strictly speaking, this case cannot be formally considered as an “anomaly,” because the transmission of non-standard codes is documented in the IS-GPS-200.

Therefore, the transmission of an NSC can be considered a normal operation in itself, though it may reflect a problem with the transmitting satellite.

In this case the choice of the spreading sequence, which is likely a square wave, allowed the total power of the signal to be concentrated in just a few spectral components, thus originating continuous-wave-like in-band signals.

The distribution of the harmonics, the main components of which are at ±500 kHz, and the presence of the odd harmonics only, matches an earlier case in 2006 of a transmission of an NSC modulated as a binary-phase-shift-keying (BPSK) sequence with alternating logical 0s and 1s, transmitted at the C/A code chipping rate (Rc=1.023 megachips per second). The hypothesis of the BPSK with Rc=1.023 megachips per second spreading signal has been verified by simulation.

However, the NSC is designed to have negligible effect on tracking other healthy GPS satellite signals. Nonetheless, an NSC transmission can have a non-negligible impact in performance of user equipment.

When a GPS satellite is switched to NSC mode, a receiver immediately loses its capability to track that satellite signal. This is not the case with SVN49, as it is currently declared non-operational. However, due to the modified code sequence, a further effect is possible: the NSC introduces irregular components at a sustained level in the GPS signal spectrum.

According to Notice Advisory to Navstar Users (NANU) 2017001, SVN49 was broadcasting standard signals as PRN04 (though set unhealthy) since the beginning of the year; NANU 2017042 announced that PRN04 was to be re-allocated to SVN38 on May 18.

This switch matches the dates when we started to see the spikes, since, probably, SVN49 started that day to use the “square wave” for the spreading.

Implementing the square wave local code, it has been possible to successfully acquire and track the NSC.
The real-time software receiver N-Gene has been forced to acquire and track in real time the signal coming from SVN49. The receiver decoded the navigation message transmitted by SVN49, which exhibits a regular format, even if marked with an unhealthy flag.

Impact on Receiver Processing. Interference with harmonic components such as those generated by the use of a square wave could strongly impact a GNSS receiver in the acquisition and tracking blocks, because the interference power is dispersed over the whole search space by the correlation with the local code, compromising the acquisition accuracy and impacting other functional blocks.

The impact of interference spectral lines depends on their location within the frequency band. This is due to the almost periodic nature of the GNSS signals. The spectrum of a GNSS signal has components spaced at multiples of the inverse of the code period (for example, 1 kHz for GPS C/A code) with different power allocated to each component depending on the shape of the code spectrum.

The effect is larger in the case of matching of the interference spectral components with the ones of the GNSS signal. Furthermore, in this case, the strongest harmonics are close to the L1 carrier frequency and are not mitigated by the front-end filter since they fall within its narrow bandwidth.

The overall GNSS scenario has changed a lot recently. Galileo and BeiDou are also present, and Galileo signals, due to the different structure and code periods, have spectral lines spaced at 0.25 kHz. The frequency modulation of the interfering signal due to the variable Doppler shift is thus even more likely to hit some of the spectral components of these signals.

We are investigating further to assess the impact of the interfering signal from SVN49 on Galileo-based high accuracy applications.

U.S. Air Force Response

The 2nd Space Operations Squadron is performing maintenance on a presently non-operational satellite. SVN49 is broadcasting non-standard C/A and non-standard Y codes as described in IS-GPS-200. Space professionals continue to conduct safe and responsible command and control of the constellation to continue to provide accuracy that exceeds established system requirements.

As always, GPS users who experience issues should address them through the appropriate channels: military users should contact DSN 560-2541, commercial 719-567-2541 while civilian users should contact the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center at 703-313-5900.

Very Respectfully,

Nicholas J. Mercurio, Capt., USAF
Director, 14th Air Force/JFCC SPACE Public Affairs

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