The launch of the first U.S. Air Force GPS Block IIIA satellite has been scheduled for May 2018. GPS III, which will replace the Air Force’s existing Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation in Medium-Earth-Orbit (MEO), was initially supposed to be launched in 2014 but it has experienced a series of delays.
Technical tests are conducted to ensure that this satellite will be more resistant to jamming by hostile nations in the event of a conflict involving the United States.
These laboratory tests – which include the use of sophisticated GNSS simulators and inertial simulators – also ensure the new GPS III constellation will deliver far better accuracy compared to legacy GPS satellites. Navigation and timing services will also be vastly improved.
It stands to reason that these sophisticated new “birds,” especially their Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) receivers, have undergone controlled laboratory testing to ensure their longevity in the harsh environment in MEO.
Let’s take a closer look at GNSS simulators and how they can help boost the accuracy of satellite navigation systems.
Effective and efficient
GNSS simulators reproduce the environment of a GNSS receiver on an orbiting satellite by replicating the satellite’s motion and signal characteristics, among other effects. They have long been effective and efficient at testing GNSS receivers and the systems that depend on them.
A GNSS simulator allows positive control over signals generated by a satellite over a global test environment. It stands as a superior alternative to using actual GNSS signals in real-world scenarios.
A GNSS simulator allows users to quickly generate and test different circumstances while exerting complete control over critical parameters. This piece of vital equipment allows testing in controlled laboratory conditions instead of resorting to far riskier and more error prone real-world, live-sky testing.
Using GNSS and inertial simulators has always been a viable alternative to field tests, where a lot can go wrong because it takes place in a largely uncontrolled environment prone to mishaps.
Testing the limits
Best practice born of decades of experience now means that most testing takes place under controlled, repeatable conditions in a secure laboratory. Simulators also enable professionals to test the limits of both real and theoretical performance.
More importantly, simulators help lead to the development of new GNSS receivers that boost positional accuracy. They also play a significant role in protecting GPS satellite integrity and in providing security from outside interference by state actors or hackers.
Lastly, simulators enable navigational availability every second of every year, providing information to those who need it wherever they may be.