The System: U.S. DoD, DoT Tell FCC No LightSquared

February 1, 2012  - By

Ashton Carter, U.S. deputy secretary for Defense, and John Porcari, deputy secretary for Transportation, have written an official letter to the assistant secretary of Commerce stating that “there appear to be no practical solutions or mitigations that would permit the LightSquared broadband service.” Carter and Porcari are co-chairs of the National Executive Committee for Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing. This represents the strongest intra-government statement to date on the issue.

Their letter further states that “both LightSquared’s original and modified plans for its proposed mobile network would cause harmul interference to many GPS receivers. Additionally, an analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration has concluded that the LightSquared proposals are not compatible with several GPS-dependent aircraft safety-of-flight systems.”

“No additional testing is warranted at this time,” the authors conclude.

They further propose to “draft new GPS spectrum interference standards that will help inform future proposals for non-space, commercial uses in the bands adjacent to the GPS signals.”

No response has emerged from either the Federal Communications Commission or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the two bodies charged with making a determination on the issue. But the letter appears to signal a coming end to a conflict that has occupied many, and tied up many resources and consumed many millions of dollars, for the past year.

One source commented off the record that “Our hope is this will be the end of the matter, and the FCC will withdrawal its initial approval and inform LSQ they must seek the 500 MHz in a different portion of the spectrum.”

Second Galileo IOV Satellite Transmits

On January 17, the E1 signal of the Galileo Flight Model 2 satellite (FM2, also known as GSAT0102) was successfully acquired and tracked by the researchers of the Navigation, Signal Analysis and Simulation (NavSAS) group at Politecnico di Torino / Istituto Superiore Mario Boella. The signal was received with a non-directive GNSS antenna, a commercial narrowband E1 RF front-end, and the N-GENE software receiver developed by the NavSAS lab.

Other research facilities and advanced GNSS companies around the world have also reported reception of a signal from this, the second in-orbit validation Galileo satellite, launched on October 21, 2011. The first IOV satellite, Galileo-ProtoFlight Model (PFM) began broadcasting in December.

FM2 currently transmits a Galileo Open Service signal on the E1 band using the Code Number 12 of the Galileo Interface Control Document (ICD). Acquisition and tracking results are reported in Figures 1, 2, and 3. The signal was received with a C/N0 of approximately 46.4 dBHz and a Doppler frequency shift equal to –2595 Hz.

Both Galileo craft were in view on January 17. Figure 4 shows both the estimated Doppler and C/N0 profiles obtained from multiple measurements performed on the same time interval.

As a final step, the demodulation of the E1b data channel has also been performed, checking the navigation messages for both the satellites. It has been noticed that, at the moment, the navigation messages present only two types of page: reserved (word type field with value 63) and type 0 (spare). Type 0 words have valid Week Number and Time Of Week fields. On the other hand, both the satellites broadcast a valid secondary code on their E1c pilot channels, compliant with the Galileo ICD.

— Fabio Dovis

FIGURE 1. Search space of the successful acquisition of the Galileo FM2 satellite (PRN 12).

FIGURE 2. Peak obtained acquiring the Galileo FM2 satellite.

FIGURE 3. Estimated C/N0 and correlation values obtained tracking the PRN 12.

FIGURE 4. Estimated Doppler and C/N0 profiles along multiple measurements performed on January 17.


More GPS III Birds, Launch, Checkout Awarded

The U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $238 million contract for production of the third and fourth satellites in the next-generation GPS III constellation.

In May 2008, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin an initial contract to design, develop and build the first two GPS III satellites. The contract also includes options for up to 10 additional spacecraft. With the most recent award, the GPS III team is now on contract to deliver four GPS III space vehicles, with the first launch scheduled in 2014. The Air Force has plans to build up to 32 GPS III satellites.

The Air Force also signed a $21.5 million contract with Lockheed Martin to provide a launch and checkout capability (LCC) to command and control all GPS III satellites from launch through early on-orbit testing.

The LCC will be integrated into the Raytheon-developed Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). It includes trained satellite operators and engineering solutions in partnership with OCX to support launch, early orbit operations, and checkout of all GPS III satellites before the spacecraft are turned over to Air Force Space Command for operations.

“Achieving initial launch capability in 2014 is critical to introducing new GPS capabilities on time and will enable the GPS III program to continue its production pace, maximize efficiencies and reduce long term costs for the GPS enterprise as a whole,” said Col. Bernard Gruber, director of the GPS Directorate. “LCC will ensure we can launch in 2014, effectively closing the time gap between GPS III and the Next Generation Operational Control System.”
Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with teammates ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK, and other subcontractors.

Increase Proposed for GLONASS

A December 27 meeting in Moscow heard a proposal to expand the GLONASS constellation to 30 satellites and six orbital planes, among five other modernization options. The Presidium of the TsNIImash Council (Central Research Institute of Machine Building) is the arm of Roscosmos, the Russian federal space agency, responsibale for civil aspects of GLONASS.

The other options include adding one more satellite to each of the existing three planes, but that would involve rephasing almost all of the operating satellites, which could cause problems. Adding three new planes to the constellation, each with two satellites, is the leading option, and will be considered in detail over the next few months.

It is not clear how the present GLONASS frequency-division multiple-access (FDMA) channel spectrum could handle 30 satellites. It appears that the current arrangement can only handle a maximum of 28 satellites. The concept would need support from the Russian Defense Ministry among others to go ahead.

Incomplete Compass ICD Released

China announced the official start of Compass operational positioning, navigation, and timing services to China and surrounding areas and released a test version of an interface control document (ICD) on December 27. The ICD is available in both Chinese and English in PDF format from the system’s website,

The nine-page test ICD is incomplete. It only describes the basics of the coordinate and time systems and the basic characteristics of the open service B1 signal transmitted as the in-phase component on the 1561.098 MHz carrier frequency, including the ranging codes assigned to different satellites. There is no discussion of the details of the navigation message or associated algorithms.

A spokesperson stated that the test version is being released to stimulate research and development work and promote applications as soon as possible, and that some aspects of the transmitted signals are not yet finalized or “cured” and that is why they are not discussed in the test ICD.

Leap Second

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) announced that a positive leap second will be introduced into Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) at the end of June 2012. UTC will be retarded by 1.0 second so that the sequence of dates of the UTC markers will be:

2012 June 30 23h 59m 59s
2012 June 30 23h 59m 60s
2012 July 01 0h 0m 0s

UTC and all time scales based on UTC will be affected by this adjustment. However, GPS will not be adjusted physically. For GPS, the leap second correction contained within the UTC data of subframe 4, page 18 of the navigation message transmitted by satellites will change.

Before the leap second: GPS-UTC = +15s (that is, GPS is ahead of UTC by 15 seconds).

After the leap second: GPS-UTC = +16s (GPS will be ahead by 16 seconds).

Meanwhile, the International Telecommunication Union postponed until 2015 a vote on a proposal to do away with leap seconds completely.

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