A report discusses the technical background and design of the Navigator Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver — a radiation-hardened receiver intended for use aboard spacecraft. Navigator is capable of weak signal acquisition and tracking as well as much faster acquisition of strong or weak signals with no a priori knowledge or external aiding. Weak-signal acquisition and tracking enables GPS use in high Earth orbits (HEO), and fast acquisition allows for the receiver to remain without power until needed in any orbit. Signal acquisition and signal tracking are, respectively, the processes of finding and demodulating a signal.

Acquisition is the more computationally difficult process. Previous GPS receivers employ the method of sequentially searching the two-dimensional signal parameter space (code phase and Doppler). Navigator exploits properties of the Fourier transform in a massively parallel search for the GPS signal.

This method results in far faster acquisition times [in the lab, 12 GPS satellites have been acquired with no a priori knowledge in a Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) scenario in less than one second]. Modeling has shown that Navigator will be capable of acquiring signals down to 25 dB-Hz, appropriate for HEO missions. Navigator is built using the radiation hardened ColdFire microprocessor and housing the most computationally intense functions in dedicated field-programmable gate arrays. The high performance of the algorithm and of the receiver as a whole are made possible by optimizing computational efficiency and carefully weighing trade offs among the sampling rate, data format, and data-path bit width.

This work was done by Luke Winternitz, Greg Boegner, and Steve Sirotzky of Goddard Space Flight Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Electronics/Computers category. GSC-14793-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2004 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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