Weekly Takeaways-September 9,2022
Theme of the Week
GTS vs GPS Despite the name, Global Positioning System (GPS) provides more than position; it also provides time. The GPS architecture requires that multiple satellites are in view to resolve both position and time together. The weak signals work well in an open field - not so well in urban canyons or behind walls. Fortunately, there isn't a critical need for position knowledge if you are inside a building; you should already know where you are. But accurate timing is absolutely critical inside data centers and deep in network server rooms. To address this, a complex time distribution network is necessary, enabled by a multi-billion-dollar ecosystem of timing and synchronization hardware providers. But on the outer shell of these spaghetti networks is still a Grandmaster Clock tied to GPS. When GPS falters, the whole timing network degrades. And all the network engineers can do is hold their collective breath until it comes back. A true Global Timing System (GTS) is much more than just satellites.
To address concerns about GPS jamming, the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) launched the Harmonious Rook project to “address the need for scalable, persistent awareness of positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) disruptions across the globe,” and will join an Army training exercise.
Part of the problem is that GPS interference events are not rigorously tracked. The European GNSS Agency (GSA) launched the STRIKE3 program to try to assess this. Over three years they found 59,000 deliberate interference signals out of 450,000+ interference signals, prompting them to develop a GNSS interference detection network.
The GAO “DOD Is Developing Navigation Systems But Is Not Measuring Overall Progress” report has led to the belief that “the real problem with DOD PNT is not a lack of leadership, but rather too much. “If everyone is in charge, no one is,” commented one retired senior military officer familiar with the issue."
NASA announced a Quantum Sensing (QS) Workshop to assess their “needs and competencies related to QS and compare agency capabilities with those available externally including industry, academia, and other government agencies.”
The success of commercial space in supporting Ukraine has not escaped the notice of US government agencies, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA): “The war in Ukraine has been a significant driver of interest in commercial space capabilities, as the intelligence community utilizes commercial, space-based data collection to understand the ongoing conflict,” according to a NGA official.
The recent US Department of Defense (DoD) “State of the Space Industrial Base” report “calls on the government to accelerate the adoption of commercial technologies and services to maintain dominance in space,” to “foster and leverage commercial innovation in order to not be overtaken by China as the dominant space power.”
The More You Know...
China now has three quantum satellites in orbit, with plans for four more:
17 August 2016 - launch of Micius QKD demonstration satellite
15 September 2016 - launch of Quantum terminal on Space Lab Tiangong-2
29 July 2022 - launch of quantum satellite Jinan 1
Elsewhere around the world other quantum satellite projects are on the drawing board:
German consortium is developing quantum sensor technology “to achieve high-precision attitude control of miniaturized satellites.”
European consortium led by SES is working on QUARTZ.
Canadian Space Agency is working on the QEYSSAT mission being built by Honeywell.
German Space Agency DLR is working on QUBE.
Notice what country isn't on that list? Sure, there are plans to launch quantum hardware and NASA is considering industry options. But, as the Ukraine conflict has shown us, innovation comes from commercial US space. Then why does the US government wants to de-fund these companies? The immensely successful Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program is still at risk of coming to an end after forty successful years.