Upgraded GPS signals

24 Feb 2017

Iridium satellites are a constellation of low orbit satellites that have been put into orbit to provide a telephone and data connection for mobile units anywhere in the world (Photo: Iridium)

Iridium satellites are a constellation of low orbit satellites that have been put into orbit to provide a telephone and data connection for mobile units anywhere in the world (Photo: Iridium)

GPS is now recognised as being vulnerable to jamming either by accident or by design and despite a lot of talk from politicians there is no back up if the system goes down through jamming or spoofing.

A solution to this vulnerability now exists in the form of
Satellite Time and Location (STL) signals. “STL signals provide the safest,
strongest, most dependable backup to our GPS infrastructure and they originate
from the Iridium satellites, whose beams are high-powered, location-specific,
and incredibly difficult to jam.” commented American company Satelles who have
developed the system. Their time and positioning system that uses the powerful
Iridium signals as a means of propagating enhanced GPS information which is
claimed to be much more reliable and powerful than the original GPS signals
alone

The Iridium satellites are a constellation of low orbit
satellites that have been put into orbit to provide a telephone and data
connection for mobile units anywhere in the World. There are 66 Iridium
satellites and each satellite uses a network of powerful spot beams to send and
receive signals to and from the earth’s surface.

By using these Iridium signals as the carrier for the
enhanced GPS signals the user on the ground or at sea receives a much more
powerful signal. The stand alone GPS signals are so weak that they have been
compared with looking at a 100 watt electric light bulb from a distance of 100
miles. The signals from the Satelles system are considered to be up to 1000
times more powerful. This means that they are much more difficult to jam by
sending out a transmission on of near to the same frequency that is more
powerful than the GPS signal but the nature of the new transmitted signal also
means that it is very difficult to spoof, meaning to send out false signals.

In their present state the position accuracy from the
Satelles system cannot match that of the stand alone GPS signals but for many
uses it has an adequate accuracy. At present this may be in the range of 20 to
50 metres and in many cases it can as good as 10 metres which may be fine for
general positioning but is probably not accurate enough to position fixed
structures. At present the system is being developed primarily as a more
resilient source of accurate time which is used for many communications and
infrastructure requirements. French Company Orolia which is the parent company
of McMurdo, is developing the system in Europe.

By Dag Pike

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