Circuit boards that contain radio-frequency (RF) and digital circuitry have been developed by NASA to satisfy a requirement of the Port of Houston Authority for relatively inexpensive Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers that indicate the azimuthal headings as well as the positions of ships. The receiver design utilizes the unique architecture of the Mitel commercial chip-set, which provides for an accurate GPS-based heading-determination device. The major components include two RF front ends (each connected to a separate antenna), a surface-acoustic-wave intermediate-frequency filter between second- and third-stage mixers, a correlator, and a reduced-instruction-set computer. One of the RF front ends operates as a master, the other as a slave. Both RF front ends share a 10-MHz sinusoidal clock oscillator, which provides for more accurate carrier phase measurements between the two antennas. The outputs of the RF front ends are subjected to conventional GPS processing. The commercial-based chip-set design approach provides an inexpensive "open architecture" GPS platform, which can be used in developing and implementing unique GPS-heading and attitude-determination algorithms for specific applications. The heading is estimated from the GPS position solutions of the two antennas by an algorithm developed specifically for this application. If a third (and preferably a fourth) antenna were added, it would be possible to estimate the attitude of the GPS receiver in three dimensions instead of only its heading in a horizontal plane.

This work was done by Michael P. Cooke, Hester J. Yim, and Susan F. Gomez of Johnson Space Center. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at under the Computers/Electronics category.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2003 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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