Advanced GNSS Receiver for CubeSats, Rockets and Remote Sensing
This project is to upgrade our in-house designed single frequency GPS receiver, called Kea, to be capable of use with multiple frequencies, antennas and systems. It will allow us to fly a far more sophisticated instrument on upcoming satellite missions. GNSS receivers help provide services to a variety of users using signals transmitted by constellations of satellites in space. Defence, maritime, building, mining, logistics and agriculture industries, plus personal consumers of mobile navigation services all rely on the data made possible by this technology. By upgrading Kea from a single frequency GPS receiver to a multi-frequency, multi-system receiver will greatly improve the accuracy of the positioning information it provides.
By listening to more systems, we can use the receiver for new applications, such as Global Navigation Satellite System [GNSS] reflectometry. This satellite remote sensing technique uses GNSS signals reflected from the Earth’s surface to estimate environmental conditions over the sea and land. It’s used to monitor wind direction and speed over the ocean and the height of waves, which helps maritime planning. It’s also used for flood management and other passive radar and remote sensing applications. The upgrade will also improve how we monitor the Earth’s ionosphere, which affects satellite communications. A multi-signal [frequency] receiver will allow us to better understand the ionosphere, and therefore space weather, which affects satellite communications for uses such as live sports broadcasts, defence and NBN sky muster internet provision in remote areas.
ACSER’s Kea and Namuru (an earlier model) are the only ‘flight-proven’, locally made GPS receivers in Australia and New Zealand. The advancements we’ll make, thanks to this funding, will ensure our GPS receiver is competitive with others on the market, which are currently imported. We’ll be able to provide local customers with improved devices at a lower cost than imports. There will also be potential to export it.
A range of Australian industries will benefit from improving locally owned and operated GPS receiver technology. Satellite and rocket operators will benefit from more accurate positioning of their platforms. Maritime operators will be able to plan routes more efficiently and safely. Satellite communications operators will have better measurements of space weather. There will also be various applications for defence related to passive radar systems.
A brief history of GPS receiver development at UNSW Sydney:
- 2004 design of Namuru v1 - an FPGA based GPS receiver
- 2006 design of Namuru v2 - dual front ends
- 2010-2013 Garada ASRP project - design of Namuru v3 cubesat form factor, for space applications
- 2014 design of Kea 4.1
- 2017 1 x Namuru receiver (aboard Sharc) and 3 x Kea receivers (aboard UNSW-EC0, INSPIRE-2) launched into space
- 2018 launch aboard Buccaneer
- 2020-2022 Australian Space Agency funded project to develope new dual frequency dual system receiver for space
Development of a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based GNSS receiver platform commenced at what was then the UNSW Sydney ‘SNAP’ lab in 2004. The original receiver, named ‘Namuru’, means ‘to see the way’ in the language of the Eora people who inhabited an area around Sydney, including the UNSW campus, before the arrival of the British. For more history of the original project you can read this archived article from Coordinates.
The concept behind the Namuru project was to develop a fully open-source GNSS receiver platform to support research, development and teaching across a wide range of topics. Though the technology is now obsolete, if you can still email the hardware team to request a free copy of the open source hardware design for the Namuru GPS receiver.