Spotlight

SpaceX satellites are changing the war on the ground in Ukraine

June 2022: SpaceX’s Starlink has been playing a significant role in keeping Ukraine connected both internally among themselves as well as with the outside world. Accounts of Starlink being used on the front lines range from communication about “last-minute orders”, keeping informed on the national news and even entertainment. It is safe to say that this communication network has thwarted Russian efforts to damage the communication networks within Ukraine since the more than 11,000 Starlink stations there are in use by every day people all the way up to the President of the country for communication with his people as well as foreign leaders. The impact Starlink has had on the situation in Ukraine has showcased that LEO satellites in a constellation make it increasingly difficult to take down. That paired with the adaptability of pushing up new changes to the satellite’s code make cyberattacks less crippling to the communication system. The full Politico article can be accessed here.

Commercial Satellites playing an ever increasing role in conflicts

March 2022: Commercial Satellites are able to provide data that can be a major factor in decisions made during conflicts. As seen in the current conflict in Ukraine, commercial satellite companies like Capella are able to provide radar images, while other companies such as Starlink can provide backup internet service. Whatever the service these satellites provide, the companies’ involvement can influence the decisions made by those in power. Dr. Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, for example, was able to see Russian troops on the move hours before the first reports of explosions were on the news due to his access to radar images from Capella. The value in this is clear from Ukraine’s vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweet stating “We badly need the opportunity to watch the movement of Russian troops, especially at night when our technologies are blind”. Another way these satellites influence the decision making of those in power is by becoming targets themselves, a legitimate fear as the Radionavigation Lab’s Dr. Todd Humphreys says Russia is one of the few countries to openly demonstrate its spoofing capabilities, which already cause trouble in the Mediterranean. In addition to spoofing, Russia’s recent demonstration of a missile test on one of its own satellites shows their ability to shoot satellites down. The full Wired article can be accessed here.

RNL Member Hailey Nichols Wins Graduate Category at Inaugural Female Founder Pitch Competition

November 2021: RNL member Hailey Nichols won first place in the Female Founder Pitch competition for their Graduate/Postdoc category. In each of their categories the first place prize was $7,500 and the second place prize was $2,500.

The pitch was for her startup Locus Lock, which offers a robust software-defined radio (SDR) for precise positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT). The goal is to offer a high-integrity, centimeter-accurate, real-time positioning and globally available product at a low cost.

The top 10 winning participants from the competition are competing again in March 2022 for the grand prize event where they pitch directly to a panel of judges—including Austin entrepreneur Kendra Scott—for a chance at an additional cash prize of $10,000. To read more about it see the article from the WNCG here.

Research by CARMEN (Center for Automated Vehicles Research with Multimodal AssurEd Navigation) to Reduce GPS Vulnerabilities

October 2021: An article on Forbes titled “New Ohio State Research Reduces GPS Vulnerabilities” goes into some detail about research being conducted to reduce GPS vulnerabilities. CARMEN, the Center for Automated Vehicles Research with Multimodal Assured Navigation, directed by Professor Zak Kassas, and including Professors Todd Humphreys and Chandra Bhatt from The University of Texas at Austin, is focusing on reducing GPS vulnerabilities. With emergency workers, shipping boats, aircraft and even our power production relying on GPS for positioning and timing it is no surprise there is a massive interest in reducing its vulnerability to jamming and spoofing. Ideas such as using 5G or LEO satellite signals for navigation have been successfully explored from Dr. Kassas’s team. Dr. Humphreys’s team is examining risk identification and signal authentication using terrestrial signals. To read more see the article here.

Video by YouTube channel GNSS-R Musings uses findings from “First results from three years of GNSS Interference Monitoring from Low Earth Orbit”

November 2021: Youtube channel GNSS-R Musings published a video looking more in depth at her RFI observations in Lybia during 2019. While looking into the reason why her observations did not line up with SMAP observations, she found our paper “First results from three years of GNSS Interference Monitoring from Low Earth Orbit” which she talked more about in her video here.

RNL Alumni Wins Prestigious Parkinson Award

October 2021: RNL alumnus Dr. Lakshay Narula (PhD, 2020) won the Bradford W. Parkinson Award, recognizing an outstanding graduate student in the field of Position, Navigation, Timing (PNT) and/or Applications.  Lakshay Narula’s Ph.D. dissertation is a substantial and foundational contribution to the PNT community. It makes four primary contributions, one of which has already been favorably recognized by the ION community: his work in all-weather precise positioning for automated vehicles, published at the ION PLANS 2020 conference, was awarded the Walter Fried award — the conference’s highest honor — for its technical depth and potential impact.  As fully developed in his dissertation, this work offers both novel theory and a fully-functional experimental pipeline with impressive field-test results.

The announcement can be found here.

“Grandfather of the RNL” Wins Kepler Award

October 2021: Dr. Mark Psiaki won the 2021 Institute of Navigation (ION) Kepler Award, the highest award in the navigation community.  The Kepler Award is awarded annually to honor an individual for sustained and significant contributions to the development of satellite navigation during their lifetime (can be thought as the navigation “hall of fame”).  Dr. Psiaki set a standard of rigor, clarity, and thoroughness in addressing key estimation and signal processing problems in PNT.  Dr. Psiaki was RNL director Todd Humphreys’s Ph.D. advisor at Cornell.

The full announcement can be accessed here.

Dr. Humphreys presents on Resilient and Robust PNT at the Joint Navigation Conference

October 2021: Dr. Todd Humphreys presented on Resilient and Robust PNT at the Joint Navigation Conference, saying we need “backups on backups on backups.”  Within this talk, he discussed GNSS vulnerabilities and threats as well as defense mechanisms.  He included real-world examples such as: spoofing an iPhone, UAV, and super-yacht, “crop circles” in China, and pin-pointing sources of interference from Low Earth Orbit. 

The full set of slides can be found here.

RNL Director and RNL Alumnus Featured in New PNT Textbook

September 2021: Authors of new PNT textbook: Position, Navigation, and Timing Technologies in the 21st Century: Integrated Satellite Navigation, Sensor Systems, and Civil Applications, met in-person at the ION GNSS+ conference.  The textbook covers the latest developments in PNT technologies, including integrated satellite navigation, sensor systems, and civil applications and features RNL director Todd Humphrey, RNL alumnus Zak Kassas, and RNL “grandfather” Mark Psiaki. 

The full list of authors included in the picture are: James Farrell (ch. 46), Sabrina Ugazio (ch. 10), Benjamin Ashman (ch. 22), Brad Parkinson (ch. 1), John Betz (cc. 2, 3), Mark Psiaki (ch. 25), John Raquet (cc. 35, 48, 50), Todd Humphreys (ch. 25), Charles Toth (ch. 51), Zak Kassas (cc. 38, 43).  Bottom row, left to right: Boris Pervan (ch. 12), Mathieu Joerger (cc. 23, 60), Todd Walter (cc 13, 43, 64), Frank van Diggelen (cc. 1, 17, 18)

The book can be found here.

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