Starlink’s satellite fleet could one day GPS replace without SpaceX supporting it.
Signals from SpaceX Starlink satellites can be used for position determination with an accuracy of eight meters. This was presented by scientists at the Institute of Navigation (ION) annual meeting in St. Louis, Ohio State News reports. The results will be published in the upcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems . With GPS, the accuracy is often around ten meters.
The attempt did not take place together with Starlink. “We listened to the signal and then developed sophisticated algorithms to determine our location, and we showed that it worked with great accuracy,”said Zak Kassas, director of the Center for Automated Vehicles Research with Multimodal Assured Navigation (CARMEN) from Ohio State University.
“And while Starlink was not designed for navigation purposes, we have shown that it is possible to understand parts of the system well enough to use it.”
Positioning still takes a long time
Kassas told Ars Technica magazine, however, that his team had to wait more than 13 seconds “to receive signals from six satellites because we did not have six satellites above us at the same time”. That will change when SpaceX has launched more satellites. “We’re preparing another real-time position estimation experiment using four Starlink satellite signals above us at the same time,”said Kassas.
Starlink’s LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite constellation at initial altitudes between approximately 400 and 650 kilometers enables the latency for satellite internet to be significantly improved. The data transmission rates are also much higher than with previous providers of satellite internet.
His team hopes that LEO satellites can provide an alternative, robust and accurate navigation system when GPS signals are unavailable or compromised, and not as a system that merely complements GPS, emphasized Kassas.