SEXTANT: Innovative Study on Position, Navigation, and Timing Resiliency

August 31, 2016

Aerospace Corporation – The purpose of Sextant is to improve resiliency by combining existing and new PNT signal sources. (Illustration: Joseph Hidalgo)

Aerospace is pioneering a study to enhance position, navigation, and timing (PNT) resiliency, challenging an Aerospace team to think about PNT resilience with a clean slate.

Dr. David Gorney, executive vice president, initiated the project and asked Aerospace researchers to look at the broad mission of how PNT might be improved, perhaps by augmenting the space-based capabilities with other technologies.

The strategic study, named Sextant after one of the first tools for navigation, does not involve looking for replacement options for GPS. It was actually a key finding of the study that there is not a drop-in replacement for the system.

“GPS is the pre-eminent system that provides service globally, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future,” Gorney said. In fact, GPS recently clocked its most accurate day ever in the history of the constellation, generating signals with an average accuracy of 38 centimeters.

Sextant was framed in terms of three critical elements, according to Dr. Randy Villahermosa, principal director, Research and Program Development Office and study lead.

“First, we looked at how to protect PNT services from outages, whether caused by natural phenomenon or man-made threats,” he said. “The second element was to address options for flexibility and cost, and third, we wanted to see if there was a way we can introduce new technologies faster,” Villahermosa said.

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