Boeing Upgrades Navy’s HIGPS Receivers

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Boeing’s Defense, Space, & Security department in Huntington Beach, CA was awarded a $40 million sole-source contract by officials with the Naval Research Laboratory in order to optimize GPS receivers for the Navy High Integrity GPS (HIGPS) program. The goal: keep the GPS devices operational despite interference and electronic jamming by using the Global Positioning System (GPS) alongside the Iridium commercial satellite system.


HIGPS is a local GPS enhancement that relies on the Iridium low Earth orbit constellation of 66 satellites, which improve navigation performance even when the GPS satellite becomes unavailable because of electronic jamming.


Four years ago, Boeing was awarded a $153.5 million contract to begin the initial phase of the program, which involved researching enhanced satellite navigation and timing technologies. This first phase wrapped up last year.


Back in 2009, Boeing announced their engineers had successfully finished the Enhanced Narrowband sofware modification to the computers onboard Iridium satellites to allow Iridium spacecraft to emit second-generation GPS-aiding signals. This enables more accurate, quicker GPS position fixes no matter where in the world you are.


These GPS-aiding signals allow only those GPS devices that are properly equipped to quickly lock on to a GPS signal, even if the device is operating in places such as forests, mountains, cities, and canyons, or any environment that normally makes it next to impossible to lock on to a GPS signal. It will also work despite enemy attempts to jam the signal, and despite any battlefield RF noise, according to Boeing officials. Boeing demonstrated how to acquire GPS signal while moving with jamming conditions in the program’s initial phase.


HIGPS capability relies both on the signals from Iridium satellites and US Air Force-operated GPS mid-Earth-orbit navigational satellites. Iridium offers a powerful signal along with changing ground track quickly to speed up the initial position fix. The GPS system is needed to provide navigational data such as time, location, and velocity. This gives the HIGPS receivers better navigational abilities, a safer signal, precise accuracy, and better protection against jamming. The HIGPS system also offers the potential to provide centimeter-level location data, which is much better than the current GPS devices relied on, which offer location within meters, according to Boeing officials.


The program is included in the Navy’s research budget for Common Picture Advanced Technology, which shows the capabilities of Iridium satellites to improve the navigation and timing capabilities of GPS as we know it today. Experts at the Boeing Phantom Works Advanced Network and Space Systems segment in St. Louis traveled to work with the engineers in Huntington Beach. Also working on this first phase: Iridium Communications Inc.; Rockwell Collins; and Coherent Navigation.


This new contract is for a two-year program to optimize the HIGPS technology developed in the first phase of the program. The Navy says they will be working to make the system fully operational.

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Khristen Foss

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