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AFRL Selects Surrey Satellite US to Evaluate Small Satellite Approach to GPS

January 22, 2013
Inside GNSS, January/February 2013

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The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has selected Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC (SST-US), of Englewood, Colorado, to investigate cost reduction and augmentation of the current GPS constellation through the application of a small satellite approach.

AFRL has contracted with SST-US to identify and analyze how small satellites can improve aspects of GPS system performance, such as accuracy, coverage, and robustness at costs far below those of past procurements.

SST-US will examine how constellations of smaller satellites could improve the overall system performance and resilience, including ways to deliver high-power signals and alternative architectures for rapid commanding that could provide system capability improvement.

The comprehensive study will incorporate details of the planned implementation, schedule, concept of operations, definition of the technical and programmatic risks, as well as the expected development, test, and operational costs.

Small satellites have become the focus of many institutional programs in recent years, as they have become ever more capable and demonstrated their importance. SST-US will draw upon the Surrey Satellite group’s 39-mission heritage to analyze the mass, power, and cost of medium Earth orbit–capable small satellites and how different launch configurations could reduce the cost and accelerate the timescales associated with GPS deployment.

In addition to the ability to implement a physical demonstration of new technological approaches, an important selection criterion for the award of the study was the technical merit of SST-US and the combined Surrey group.

SST-US’s parent company, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in the United Kingdom, built the Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element (GIOVE-A) satellite for Europe’s GNSS system in 29 months within a budget of approximately US$35 million. SSTL is partnered with OHB-System to build the first 22 fully operational capability (FOC) Galileo satellites.

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