Engineers from GMV Innovating Solutions in Warsaw, together with partners, including the Space Research Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences, have developed a satellite navigation receiver (GNSS) intended for the rapidly growing global market of micro- and nanosatellites. The device, which can also be used in small launchers, has successfully passed the last ground tests and is being prepared for tests in low Earth orbit. As RMF FM Paweł Wojtkiewicz from GMV says, there are already the first customers interested in the commercial use of this device.
The receiver is programmable, its heart is software that can actually be implemented on any device. In this version, it makes no sense to even talk about the weight of the receiver itself, because this software can be installed on almost any processor or any computer that is an integral part of a satellite or rocket. So weight – in short – does not matter to us – says Paweł Wojtkiewicz, director of the space sector at GMV Innovating Solutions in an interview with RMF FM journalist Grzegorz Jasiński.
The receiver is compatible with global GPS and Galileo systems. It offers a very high precision of determining the position of the satellite in orbit with an accuracy of up to 2 m and its speed with an accuracy of 0.01 m / s. At the same time, the receiver allows you to carry out measurements in a continuous mode. It makes that can be a key component of new types of space missionssuch as formation flights, servicing of in-orbit satellites, and space debris capture. The possibility of cheap and quick serial production is important.
Both versions of the GNSS receiver: for satellites and for carrier rockets, have successfully passed the testing phase in the laboratories of the Military University of Technology and the Center for Geospatial Analysis and Satellite Calculations of the Warsaw University of Technology (CENAGIS), with which GMV has signed a long-term cooperation agreement. The GNSS receiver for launchers has already been integrated into the avionics of the Miura 1 launcher and the first flight test of the device will be carried out on board. In turn, the version of the receiver for the satellites will be tested during the GOMX-5 mission of the European Space Agency. GOMX-5 is a satellite that will be launched into orbit in 2022 and will carry a number of experiments. The GNSS receiver, designed and manufactured in Poland, will be one of them.
Grzegorz Jasiński, RMF FM: What type of satellites and rockets will your receiver be intended for?
Paweł Wojtkiewicz: The programmable GNSS receiver is designed for small rockets, the so-called micro receivers and for microsatellites, i.e. devices smaller than standard large satellites. For satellites that are smaller, they have lower weight, but not always less powerful than large devices of this type.
How can mere mortals imagine this? What does it mean – a smaller satellite, a nanosatellite? How many kilograms, what sizes?
In fact, we are talking about satellites that weigh 50-100 kg – this type of device can use this receiver. Of course, probably in the future, when the miniaturization of all types of devices, the so-called hardware, such solutions can also be used on much smaller devices.
And the receiver itself – how much does it weigh, how big is it?
This is a good question and the answer to that question is in the name of the receiver itself. Well, it is a programmable receiver, in fact its heart is software that can be implemented on any device. And this is exactly the innovation that occurs in this type of receivers. We can say that it makes no sense to talk about the weight of the receiver itself, because we are able to implement this software on almost any processor or any computer that is an integral part of a given satellite or rocket. So weight – in short – does not matter to us.
We know very well how small satellite navigation devices can be. We have them in our cells and sometimes we have them in our watches. As I understand it, your receiver will operate on the basis of a network of navigation satellites. Which can it use? Of all?
This version of the receiver that we have now created uses the GNSS signal of two constellations: Galileo and GPS. We are also working on receiver versions that will use the remaining signals. Today, however, the signals from these two constellations are enough to determine the position in the orbit.
Up to what altitude are these navigation indications based on satellite constellations reliable? Up to what height can you ensure a sufficiently good sensitivity of this device?
This type of programmable receiver that we have developed is designed for satellites that move in low Earth orbit, i.e. from an altitude of about 400 km to an altitude of 1500 km. To this extent, in these orbits, this receiver is supposed to function and all devices that follow the orbits at these altitudes can use it.
We are talking about high speeds here, because when a rocket is launched and a satellite is sent into space, we are dealing with a very high acceleration, then the speed of their satellites is enormous. Therefore, does this device have to have any special properties that allow it to collect data so quickly and analyze it so quickly?
It all depends on the processor we use. We currently use processors that are adapted to this to quickly calculate all the data collected by the GNSS antenna. The signal that reaches the receiver is processed quite quickly. And here, after a series of tests, which we also carried out on devices in our country, everything indicates that this receiver will work very well in orbit and at these high speeds – during rocket launch or while the satellite is moving in orbit around the Earth – this data will be properly collected and processed.
As for the progress compared to the devices that have been available so far, or something else besides the sizes themselves, namely – as you say – the practical lack of extra dimensions, could you please replace? What are other advantages of this device?
The main advantage is that in the base option we can say that these sizes are not available. Of course, we are able – and we have this type of solution, it is designed – to deliver this receiver together with the so-called hardware, i.e. there is a software and hardware part. Then such a receiver has a mass of about 300 grams. But in fact, the receiver can be implemented on any platform, then we use the existing hardware layer. There is also a certain type of innovation and convenience for potential customers or users of such a receiver. Thanks to the work of our engineers, they can implement the receiver on the architecture of the existing platform.
Are any universal operating systems and software used, or, for example, the user has to let countries into his ecosystem, his computer software? There are no problems here?
Indeed, at the level of integration of our receiver with existing software, it must be done in several stages. However, as of today, from the work that we do, we do not see very big problems in integrating our solution with other environments that already exist on a given platform. So our solution is also universal and quite flexible. It is also worth saying that our receiver, designed by GMV engineers in Poland, will be placed in orbit on the GOMX-5 satellite next year. Also next year, I hope that at the beginning, the receiver will be tested on board the Miura 1 rocket, where it is already integrated with the entire avionics of the rocket and is waiting for launch.
This is what I wanted to ask, you inform about the successfully conducted ground tests, but the ultimate proof that everything is working perfectly will be the in-orbit tests.
There will be two tests, we can’t wait to see how the receiver works in the environment for which it has been programmed. Of course, as it was said before, all ground tests were successful, including those carried out in Poland, on the research infrastructure available in our country. And, in fact – I can’t reveal the details – but from the very beginning we designed the GNSS receiver as a commercial device. And I can say that we already have the first customers who are interested in this receiver and, perhaps next year, at the very beginning, we will be able to say that the receiver has its first customer who will want to put it on their hardware platform.
Can you tell us about the cost of the device and your expected annual demand for this type of device?
The receiver is designed to meet the needs of the space market, but this new space market, the so-called New Space. This market is characterized by the fact that in the near future we can expect a huge increase in the number of devices, satellites placed in orbit, and thus, we can expect an increasing demand for the services of launching satellites into orbit. Therefore, our target client for this type of solution are manufacturers of small rockets, manufacturers of small satellites. It is estimated that over the next 10 years, the market of small satellites producers will grow by over 200%. and will be worth around $ 35 billion. Of course, these are very large values. We will be pleased if, although a small percentage of this large market, a small percentage of satellite platform manufacturers want to use the receiver that was developed by GMV.