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Satelles receivers configured for U.S. Transportation Department testing in 2020. Typical customer installations require far less gear. Credit: Satelles

TAMPA, Fla. — Competing positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) companies are joining forces to accelerate efforts to back up global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).

The Open PNT Industry Alliance (OPIA) was formed in December amid growing support for alternative capabilities to improve the resiliency of satellite navigation systems that increasingly underpin modern life.

It comes as the U.S. government steps up measures to encourage more companies — particularly those in telecoms, utilities, transportation, defense and other critical infrastructure sectors — to implement some form of protection for GPS-based services.

A Space Policy Directive the White House issued in January marked the first high-level update to U.S. space-based PNT policy in more than 16 years.

The U.S. economy would lose $1 billion a day if widespread GPS services were lost as a result of some adverse event, according to a June 2019 study sponsored by the government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The study said the cost would likely be higher if the outage occurred during the April and May planting season, when farmers heavily rely on GPS information about their fields.

“The world is massively dependent and reliant on GPS — much more so than it knows,” warned Brian Manning, CEO of Californian startup Xona Space Systems, an OPIA member company developing cubesats to improve location services.

Financial transactions, for instance, rely heavily on PNT to relay and cross-check information.

Reston, Virginia-based Satelles, which has been providing assured PNT services over Iridium Communications’ satellites to back up GNSS since 2016, is OPIA’s administrator and facilitator.

Satelles’ Satellite Time and Location (STL) solutions have already been implemented in commercial applications that include protecting trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Many more alternative PNT technologies have emerged in recent years as improving GNSS capabilities is seen as a key enabler for autonomous cars, drones, ships and other emerging industries.

Emboldened by the U.S. government’s PNT space policy directive and similar moves worldwide, the OPIA is championing a multi-technology approach for fortifying GNSS.

The alliance is pushing for government funding frameworks to develop and adopt a ‘system of systems’ strategy for alternative PNT, fueling multiple solutions to improve resiliency instead of relying on just one backup.

The lobby group currently has 18 members, after adding two in May, ranging from those that make PNT hardware to service providers seeking to improve the accuracy, security and resiliency of GNSS.

This article originally appeared in the July 2021 issue of SpaceNews magazine.

 



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