CrossTrac Engineering, Inc., in cooperation with its partners, Cateni, Inc., and GMH Engineering, proposes to develop a system for the precision relative navigation and time synchronization and gigabit data transfer for swarms of small spacecraft based on the optical terminal currently under development at CrossTrac. This will include an integrated software defined radio compatible with small spacecraft and designed specifically for the coordinated operation and precise navigation of multiple small spacecraft operating in a swarm as well as the software necessary to manage the network and determine the relative positions of the users. The “PNTC System” will provide users with precise knowledge of their positions to the centimeter level, synchronize user clocks to sub-nanosecond level, provide giga-bit-per-second communications and coordinate the operations of the optical network using its integrated RF solution. NASA is exploring a number of multispacecraft swarm missions that depend on the coordinated, time synchronized action and/or observations of multiple spacecraft with accurately measured relative positions. These swarm missions, among other things, can be formed into sparse aperture systems providing unprecedented image resolution; can be used to explore phenomena that vary simultaneously in time and space; and can perform distributed RF communications, imaging the RF emissions of galactic sources. Furthermore, a series of spacecraft in lunar or Martian orbit can use this system to provide PNTC services to nearby. The growth of the CubeSat industry over the past decade and the related increase in launch opportunities for these spacecraft couple with the need by NASA users for improved PNT services and increased data collection capabilities combine to make the development of the PNTC terminal not just desirable for current users, but enabling of future missions requiring orders of magnitude more precise PNT services.
This system is an enabling technology for swarms of spacecraft collecting data in a coordinated fashion; and precision navigation, timing and communication services necessary for operations in cis-lunar and Martian orbits. Swarm missions include exploration of Earth-Sun interactions through measurements taken over varying distances to measure the instantaneous spatial gradients of these parameters and the creation of sparse aperture systems with unprecedented resolution at a variety of wavelengths.
The interest in swarm missions expressed by NASA, the Department of Defense and the National Reconnaissance Office has created a need for PNT & communications capabilities compatible with small spacecraft. This PNTC system will be enabling for DoD, NRO and commercial spacecraft swarm providing unprecedented imaging and communications capabilities.