With the help of a customer, Xona will test a GPS-alternative demo satellite

Position, navigation, and timing (PNT) services are provided by legacy GNSS like GPS and Galileo via a constellation of extremely large satellites orbiting Earth at a distance of around 12,500 miles. These services are now the backbone of practically every part of today’s connected society, yet vulnerabilities to these legacy applications are rapidly growing in tandem with customer needs for improved performance and security.

Xona Space Systems, a start-up, is getting ready to show off services originating from test satellite to the very first large customer for its intended navigation constellation.

NovAtel, a Canadian provider of GPS equipment and solutions, announced on May 31 that it had registered to be an early user of Xona’s intended network of roughly 300 cubesats. NovAtel intends to configure their technology using the in-orbit test bed.

NovAtel is a subsidiary of Hexagon, a publicly-traded technology company with net sales of $4.7 billion in 2021. It is one of the world’s major manufacturers of GPS signal receivers.

The firm has agreed to use Xona’s services while also contributing to their development. Huginn was among the dozen payloads launched by SpaceX in a Falcon 9 rideshare mission on May 25. It was created in-house by California-based Xona.

According to Xona CEO as well as co-founder Brian Manning, Huginn is still getting health checks before beginning demonstrations. A satellite’s commissioning period can last several weeks after launch, based on the kind of satellite and the mission’s complexity.

Huginn hopes to demonstrate the performance advantages of its scheduled Pulsar constellation over GPS as well as other GNSS (global navigation satellite systems)¬†once it is completed, according to Manning. By operating at a lower altitude, the spacecraft can save a lot of energy. Xona claims that it’s positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services will have ten times the accuracy of traditional GNSS.

Pulsar satellites are also built to work in bad weather, which can cause ground-based LIDAR ( light detection and ranging) systems for PNT to fail. In comparison to present GNSS systems, which are only precise enough to show which route their vehicle is on, Manning claims that customers will be able to know which lane they are driving in especially when lane lines cannot be visible.

Hexagon predicts increased demand for its PNT abilities in the emerging autonomous car business, which is one of its markets. Manning said that Xona has “a number of commercial customers designing technology to be compatible” with the Pulsar satellites, that he expects to begin launching in low Earth orbit (LEO) by early 2025.

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