Delivering Advanced Space-Based PNT with CACI’s Latest DemoSat Launch
Resilient Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT)
CACI launched two breakthrough software payloads from Vandenberg Space Force Base, California, on Dec. 1, 2023, aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 Korea 425 mission. The demonstration satellite (DemoSat) launch capped years of research, development, and investment with a successful space launch that put our first-ever, self-funded DemoSat into low earth orbit (LEO).
CACI and its partners, York Space Systems and Cesium Astro, launched this satellite to validate promising technology that aims to address the challenge of customer access to secure space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) in contested or degraded environments. One software payload will test our advances in precision timing with CACI’s low size, weight, and power (SWaP) PNT application, while a second will be used for radio frequency (RF) collection of tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (TacISR).
Together the modular payloads represent a giant leap forward in precision small-platform time synchronization and rapid access to precisely geolocated ISR.
Precise and Protected PNT and Tactical ISR Collection
GPS geolocation is widely used for both national security and commercial purposes. CACI’s technology advances provide vital redundancies when GPS or global navigation satellite system (GNSS) geolocation services are threatened, degraded, or denied through cost-effective, frequency-agile two-way time transfer (TWTT) and clock modeling capability. This system delivers precise, secure sub-nanosecond timing and frequency data over long distances for users of space-based PNT. Our specialized machine learning (ML) algorithms track and continually improve clock accuracy in real time. Private, changeable device registration delivers highly advanced security for signals sent to and from ground, air, and space assets. These frequency agile, burst-based waveform TWTT signals ensure low probability of intercept or detection (LPI/D).
CACI has a rich history of waveform innovation and exploitation and a deep understanding of signal processing. Our specialized multi-mission DemoSat payload is built on a low-SWaP, flexible, upgradable, and reprogrammable commercial software-defined radio (SDR) hardware that enables the DemoSat to deliver precise and protected PNT and tactical ISR collection that significantly improves multi-platform remote sensing. In addition to resilient PNT, an onboard TacISR payload identifies and captures key radio frequency (RF) signals of interest (SOI) from multiple platforms. Combined, both payloads deliver highly secure LPI/D timing and geolocation of adversary assets and targets. We believe DemoSat’s capabilities can revolutionize operations across all domains and unlock game-changing capabilities from orbit.
A Valuable Capability for National Security
From communications to satellite imagery, space has long been considered the ultimate high ground, yet expensive to access, thus demanding highly-engineered, unique systems that remain in a challenging environment on orbit for many years.
But today, space is more accessible than ever. Many nations launch and operate assets on orbit, making space increasingly saturated and contentious. For the U.S. military, space is inseparable from maneuver warfare and multi-domain operations and is used not only for strategic capabilities, but also tactical and operational needs like targeting, ISR, and secure communications. Joining traditional military power with non-kinetic and information warfare capabilities on a global scale demands secure, reliable access to space.
Secure PNT is crucial to targeting and synchronization of weapons and a host of other tasks, and the enhanced redundancy of our PNT advances ensure greater survivability in any fast-moving scenario or conflict. Space-based PNT payloads developed with reprogrammable SDRs can effectively support GPS, performing protected PNT in scenarios where signals are weak, degraded, jammed, or restricted by adversary weapons or tactics, or by extending GPS to other orbits.
Enabling Enhanced, Resilient PNT for Mission Success
Today’s threats to space-based national security systems necessitate more advancements in mission technologies. PNT technology is one of the most important and vital military capabilities tied to the U.S. space enterprise. While GPS and GNSS are ubiquitous around the world, they generally rely onlow-power signals and one primary frequency band, which makes them vulnerable to more sophisticated GPS spoofer and jammer technologies that can disrupt and even deny signal access.
CACI’s resilient PNT technology offers a critical solution. Rather than replacing GPS, it acts as backstop to deliver greater connectivity to the growing number of LEO satellite constellations. Our PNT technology offers the ability to keep accurate time from coordinated universal time, and our modeling and simulation capability makes lab testing more effective – making it possible to generate greater accuracy and robustness from current and future signals.
Enhancing Future Operations
CACI’s advances in PNT deliver valuable capability to meet new threats. Smaller, more responsive, integrated satellite operations – such as those with CACI’s DemoSat – will better empower dispersed forces around the world facing a challenging multi-domain operational environment. In 2023, CACI announced a cooperative research agreement with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center (USASMDC-TC) to further develop key space technologies such as resilient PNT for military and national security use.
By delivering advanced space-based collection and geolocation of RF signals out to the edge of conflict, operators can gain rapid, more precise timing and geolocation information on adversary assets in minutes, enhancing operational effectiveness and survivability – preserving the advantage of space in our favor.