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Inmarsat Test Project Looks to Deliver First UK-Generated Satnav Signal

By Mark Holmes | December 8, 2021

Rendering of an Inmarsat-3 satellite. Photo: Inmarsat

Inmarsat is participating in a test project to deliver the first U.K.-generated satellite navigation signal. Inmarsat announced Dec. 7 that it is working with the European Space Agency (ESA), Goonhilly Earth Station, and GMVNSL to achieve this. The goal is provide a potential platform for the United Kingdom to enhance its capabilities in the Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) domain post-Brexit.

Repurposing a transponder from the Inmarsat-3 F5 satellite, the test project – UK Space Based Augmentation System, or UKSBAS – will provide an overlay signal to augment the United States GPS satellite navigation system. This can refine the precision of the signal from a few meters to a few centimeters in accuracy.

UKSBAS will provide a basis to assess its future development into an operational capability to support safety-critical applications such as aircraft approaching and landing at airports or navigating ships through narrow channels. Goonhilly will provide the uplink for the system from Cornwall and software from GMVNSL, based in Nottingham, will generate the ground-based navigation signal.

The U.K. no longer has access to the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) Safety of Life services since leaving the European Union (EU), and is not involved in the EU’s Galileo program.

“Working with Goonhilly Earth Station and GMVNSL, supported by U.K. funding via the ESA Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP), enables us to extend the long life of Inmarsat’s I-3 F5 satellite with additional new services designed two decades after launch. We look forward to exploring the potential for this project and the benefits it could deliver to the U.K. with more precise, high-integrity, resilient navigation services, whilst also exploring future capabilities on new satellites through Inmarsat’s fully funded technology roadmap,” Nick Shave, vice president of Strategic Programmes for Inmarsat Global Government, said in a statement.