Improvements in position, navigation and timing (PNT) can benefit both human and robotic spacecraft as they will facilitate higher quality data return from science instruments and enable mission operation concepts such as precise landing and deep-space formation flying. The proposed technology provides multi-platform relative navigation and timing that directly supports cooperative and collaborative space platform operations and will advance autonomous navigation thereby by reducing reliance on Earth-based systems and reducing overall cost. The solution also supports coordinated nanosatellite formation and swarm operations to enable radio frequency (RF) and electro-optical (EO) distributed aperture operations. Two design reference missions were identified during the Phase I effort that represent currently science and exploration needs and potential infusion points into future NASA programs. The multipurpose SDR can also change its function with mission phase and requirements, and will be able to sense and adapt to its RF environment to improve communications all within CubeSat compatible size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints. For example, the SDR-based can also be configured and program to receive and process signals from external sources such as the TDRSS Augmentation System for Satellites (TASS) (also known as Next Generation Broadcast Service or NGBS) which is a global, space-based, communications and navigation service for users in low-Earth orbit.
The proposed solution also has great potential in a variety of military and pure commercial applications and in particular for cluster and fractionated spacecraft. Potential commercial applications may include: 1. multi-static synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system for all-weather Earth observing remote sensing,2. Multi-ball spectrum utilization and geolocation constellations to map out spectrum use and interference sources, 3. Small satellite constellations that provice global communication (voice, data, internet, etc.) that use crosslinks for network connectivity to enable todays advanced modulations such as LTE that require that all network nodes have accurate time and frequency knowledge. 4. Constellations that use MIMO communication and/or distributed RF beamforming to increase range and or communication data throughput.