US company awarded $1.8m LEO PNT R&D contract

By on 18 August, 2023
Image courtesy Xona

US company Xona Space Systems has partnered with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and the US Space Force to work toward establishing a secure low-Earth orbit (LEO) positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) architecture leveraging Xona’s proposed PULSAR service.

PULSAR is a proposed constellation of up to 300 small satellites in LEO, which would provide timing signals — and therefore by extension, positioning capabilities — for ground-based infrastructure and vehicles.

According to Xona (pronounced ‘zone-uh’), the PULSAR satellites would be rapidly manufactured and launched, and capable of operating independently of GPS.

“Our partnership with the AFRL Space Vehicles directorate and USSF’s Space Warfighting Analysis Center will give Xona the expertise necessary to seamlessly integrate PULSAR into the US national security space architecture,” said Brian Manning, Chief Executive Officer for Xona Space Systems.

“Early assessment of unique DOD PNT requirements will set us up for a successful transition to operational service.”

The $1.84m (US$1.2m) Direct to Phase II SBIR (D2P2) contract was awarded through an AFWERX SBIR Open Topic after Xona successfully demonstrated the capability of its patented LEO PNT architecture carried about the ‘Huginn’ demonstration satellite in late 2022.

“Lessons from this effort will pave the way for future defence programs to successfully utilise commercial space assets for flexible and diverse SATNAV that is resilient to the adversarial threat,” said Colonel Jeremy Raley, Commander, Phillips Research Site and Director of the Air Force Research Laboratory Space Vehicles Directorate.

“This investment will contribute to force design analytics that consider contributing signals from multiple orbit regimes.”

As well as validating the capability of its technology on-orbit, Xona has established a growing group of GNSS receiver and simulator partners companies, such as Hexagon|NovAtel, Septentrio, Spirent, Safran, Syntony and StarNav.

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