SpaceX satellite signals used like GPS to pinpoint location on Earth

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Engineering researchers have developed a method to use signals broadcast by Starlink internet service satellites to accurately locate a position here on Earth, much like GPS does. It is the first time the Starlink system has been harnessed by researchers outside SpaceX for navigation.The Starlink satellites, sent into orbit by Elon Musk's SpaceX...
Engineering researchers have developed a method to use signals broadcast by Starlink internet service satellites to accurately locate a position here on Earth, much like GPS does. It is the first time the Starlink system has been harnessed by researchers outside SpaceX for navigation.

The Starlink satellites, sent into orbit by Elon Musk's SpaceX, are designed to provide broadband internet connections in remote locations around the world. The researchers used signals from six Starlink satellites to pinpoint a location on Earth within 8 meters of accuracy.

Their findings, shared today (Sept. 22, 2021) at the Institute of Navigation GNSS annual meeting in St. Louis, may provide a promising alternative to GPS. Their results will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems.

The researchers did not need assistance from SpaceX to use the satellite signals, and they emphasized that they had no access to the actual data being sent through the satellites – only to information related to the satellite's location and movement.

"We eavesdropped on the signal, and then we designed sophisticated algorithms to pinpoint our location, and we showed that it works with great accuracy," said Zak Kassas, director of the Center for Automated Vehicles Research with Multimodal Assured Navigation (CARMEN), a multi-institution transportation center housed at The Ohio State University.

"And even though Starlink wasn't designed for navigation purposes, we showed that it was possible to learn parts of the system well enough to use it for navigation."

CARMEN is one of four recently awarded U.S.…
The Ohio State University
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