Augmented reality and directions in the windshield: Integrated systems run (precise) laps around earlier technology, like a piano-roll device from the 1930s.
The system is essential but also vulnerable. We need a backup.
A game of hide-and-seek using GPS technology is a joyful distraction for many.
Tesla has launched a GPS III satellite on behalf of customer the U.S. Space Force, the second GPS III generation satellite it has launched for the U.S. military this year. The first took off in June, and was the third overall GPS III put in orbit by SpaceX . This is the fourth, and will provide improved GPS navigation capabilities to the U.S., including improved jamming technology to protect against interference.
SpaceX used a brand new Falcon 9 first-stage on this launch, and successfully recovered that rocket booster using a controlled landing on its drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The company also confirmed that its payload achieved good orbit, and it’s now in the process of making its way to the deployment point where it can release the GPS spacecraft for its final orbital insertion.
This mission flew from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and was the second attempt at delivering this payload, after an attempt at the beginning of September was scrubbed due to an early startup of two engines that caused an auto-shutdown of the launch sequence two seconds prior to liftoff. SpaceX investigated the issue and found that it was due to some trace amounts of a masking material used to protect engine components making their way into fuel lines. That triggered a change in its engine manufacturing and inspection process.
SpaceX also delayed its forthcoming Crew-1 launch for NASA to resolve the issue, so today’s launch should be another reassurance that that key, history-making flight of an operational ISS crew made up of three NASA and one JAXA astronaut will go ahead as planned on November 14, barring any other delays.
Garmin today is announcing a $999 GPS unit designed specifically for motorsports. Called the Garmin Catalyst the unit aims to be a motorsports coach of sorts, helping drivers improve lap times, and more. It’s the latest example of Garmin testing different markets now that GPS units are built-into most vehicles.
Like standard GPS units, the Catalyst mounts on the windshield and provides detailed maps for the driver. However, since this is for racing around tracks, instead of providing driving directions, the Catalyst is said to provide motorsports coaching with voice instructions and detailed analysis of the driver’s performance.
Adam Spence, Garmin product manager explains, “[The Catalyst] gathers several data metrics and identifies where laps can be seamlessly joined together to create the fastest racing line. This shows users their fastest achievable time based on lines actually driven and gives them an optimal lap they can truly achieve.”
The GPS unit uses a series of sensors and components to generate the car’s racing line on the track. The included camera captures 1080p video, which can be played back on the unit with the track data overlaid showing speed, lap data, and more.
When driving, the Catalyst is said to be able to provide adaptive instruction to the driver based on past driving laps, instructing the driver on when to turn in, apex, and exit turns along with braking data when needed. This information can playback through compatible headsets or the vehicle’s Bluetooth stereo.
Data and track information can be viewed on the device itself or exported to a mobile device or computer.
The system is the latest product from Garmin who is trying to bring its GPS know-how to niche markets. Previously, the company unveiled a similar unit for overlanding vehicles. Based on pictures, the Overlander and the Catalyst seem to use the same mounting hardware and have a similar design albeit the Overlander appears more rugged.
Some government agencies that use the software said they were surprised that Google may pick up the locations of certain app users. Others said they had unsuccessfully pushed Google to make a change.
The most recent quarterly report from specialist investor Space Capital shows that despite obvious impacts stemming from the current coronavirus pandemic, investment in general in space startups didn’t suffer as much as some predicted – and interest surged specifically in the ‘Applications’ category they track, which monitors companies building software on the data layer enabled by in-space observation and communication assets.
Space Capital’s Q2 report did report an 85% decline quarter-over-quarter vs. Q1 in terms of infrastructure investment, which is a clear sign that investors have been wary of spending on big, expensive new companies actually building and launching space hardware. We saw the result of some of that retraction with mergers and bankruptcies, including the high-profile bankruptcy and subsequent sale of satellite constellation operator OneWb.
The good news on the software layer is that the quarter saw $5.3 billion invested in these companies, including $4.5 billion in the U.S., according to the report. And VC funding overall is actually up 4% year-over-year for H1 2020 vs. H1 2019, the firm notes – though Q2 investment taken on its own is down 23% year-over-year relative to Q2 2019.
On the whole, the space sector saw $12.1 billion in equity-based investments to date in 2020, across 112 rounds, with early stage investments totalling $303 million of that, across 67 rounds. The bulk of those were either Seed or Series A investments.
It’s worth noting that the Applications layer as tracked by Space Capital includes essentially any company that relies heavily on GPS – and PNT-based navigation for their software, including large companies like Waymo that need that data to make their self-driving technology work.
GPS is unquestionably one of the largest and most successful space-based infrastructure investments that continues to bear considerable fruit, in terms of new businesses being built, and legacy industries continuing to be updated and disrupted. Many in space investment are seeking a successor to GPS – not necessarily in terms of its specific function, but definitely in terms of a space-based technology that has as broad and lasting an impact.
You can read the full report from Space Capital below:
SpaceX successfully launched a GPS III satellite for the U.S. Space Force today. The Space Force took over the U.S. in-space GPS assets from the Air Force when it became its own dedicated wing of the U.S. armed forces.
The launch employed a Falcon 9 rocket, the first stage of which was new and fresh from SpaceX’s factory floor. This launch did include a recovery attempt of the Falcon 9 booster, however, unlike the first GPS III launch that SpaceX launched in December 2018. SpaceX says that it was able to work with its customer to ensure that it could complete its mission as planned, while retaining enough reserve fuel for a recovery attempt – something that didn’t happen with the first launch.
That’s good news for SpaceX, since it means it won’t be losing that booster this time around, with a confirmed successful controlled burn and landing on its floating drone landing ship at sea. That can now be refurbished and used again for future Falcon 9 missions.
The GPS spacecraft launched on this flight includes greater capabilities, better security and the potential to impact up to 4 billion users worldwide, the Space Force notes. It’ll enter a geosynchronous orbit and work with other existing GPS III satellites on orbit, as well as other existing earlier generation GPS satellites operated by the U.S.
SpaceX also says that its Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief ships will attempt fairing recovery at sea, not via catch but by fishing them out of the water. The fairing protects the satellite during the launch on its trip to space, and then falls back to Earth – where SpaceX generally tries to recover the pieces for later refurbishment and re-use.
The deployment of the satellite will occur around an hour and a half after launch, so while the launch has been successful, the full mission status will only be determined then. We’ll update this post with the results of that maneuver.
Scientists are hard at work recalibrating where and how the nation physically sits on the planet. It’s not shrinkage — it’s “height modernization.”
San Mateo-based startup Xona Space Systems has raised a $1 million “pre-seed” round led by 1517, and including participation from Seraphim Capital, Trucks Venture Capital and Stellar Solutions. The company is focused on developing a Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) satellite service that it believes can supersede Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), providing big benefits in terms of security, precision and accuracy.
Xona contends that GNSS, which is essentially the backbone of almost all global navigation software and services, is relatively imprecise, and open to potential disruption from malicious attackers. It’s a technology that was transformational in its time, but it’s not up to the challenge of meeting the requirements of modern applications, including autonomous vehicle transportation, drone fleets, automated ocean shipping and more.
The company is pursuing an ambitious goal: GNSS remains one of the most significant, broad and impactful space-based technologies ever to be developed. Its impact is apparent daily, from consumer applications like turn-by-turn navigation via mobile mapping apps, to industrial services like global logistics platforms. Anyone who can develop a credible next-generation alternative that modernizes and improves upon GNSS stands to gain a lot.
Xona’s approach promises tenfold improvements in terms of accuracy vs. GNSS, and encryption that can help provide much more security. The company has a patent pending on its ‘Pular’ branded PNT service, which will employ low Earth orbit satellites (vs. higher orbit current GNSS networks) to provide its next-gen navigation tech.