Polish Engineers involved in Testing of Integrated Circuits for Satellite Navigation Receivers

PUBLISHED AT: Monday, 04 December 2017, 12:04

The Astri Polska company is doing the final preparations for radiation tests of the AGGA-4 advanced integrated circuit. The aforesaid component has been designed for space applications, primarily in case of the GNSS satellite navigation receivers. At the beginning of December the company would conduct the final test of the newly designed test equipment, with AGGA-4 circuitry connected. Tests in an environment replicating the presence of space radiation would constitute the final stage of the project. This has been planned to happen in February next year in Belgium and Switzerland. AGGA-4 project is being pursued for ESA, with its budget being defined as PLN 1.8 million.

AGGA-4 is an advanced integrated circuit designed for space applications. Primarily, it is being used as one of the main elements of the GNSS space satellite navigation receiver. The circuit is based on the ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) technology. This makes the component immensely efficient, since it acts as a system designed to carry out a specific task. AGGA-4 may serve as a base for a GNSS receiver, after further components such as software and radio module (front-end) are added. The said components would be responsible for delivery of signal from the antenna and for digitizing the data sent.

AGGA-4 Integrated Circuit. Image Credit: Astri Polska

It was assumed that the system shall be resistant to space radiation. The solution should also be capable of processing signals received from the following navigation systems: GPS, Galileo, Glonass and Beidou.

In the nearest future the AGGA-4 ASIC is planned to be used as a part of the satellite navigation receivers integrated with Earth Observation, navigation or telecommunication satellites, as well as with launch vehicles. Astri Polska company is going to be tasked with examining the radiation profile of the system in conditions, in which heavy ions and proton radiation remains present.

Getting the knowledge concerning the reactions of the satellite navigation receiver to space radiation bears key relevance from the point of view of the mission success, with regards to the initiatives that would make use of the hardware in question. Notably, the results of our research, besides checking the AGGA-4 ASIC itself, would also make it possible for us to derive data important for the engineers working on the GNSS receiver components designed for space applications.

Karol Brzostowski, Head of the Satellite Applications and Services Department of Astri Polska

The test programme is going to make use of dedicated proprietary software and electronic hardware created at Astri Polska. At the beginning of November the company has integrated the individual components that are going to be used for the test purposes. So called “dry run” is scheduled to happen at the beginning of December. The procedure is expected to be carried out in presence of an ESA officer, whose task would be to holistically verify the operation of the test environment before the AGGA-4 circuit is exposed to radiation. 

The final test procedures concerning the AGGA-4 ASIC would take place in February 2018, at the Belgian Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL). The system is going to be tested in conditions of heavy ions radiation. Meanwhile, proton exposure is going to take place at the Swiss Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). During all of the stages of the test programme, operation of the AGGA-4 system would be monitored by systems delivered by Astri Polska.

Evaluation board featuring the AGGA-4 circuitry in the bottom section. Image Credit: Astri Polska

Astri Polska is the sole Polish company being in possession of expertise required to test the GNSS receivers designed for space applications. Throughout the period between 2015 and 2016, the aforesaid company finalized the FLIRT-PL (Fitting LIon Receiver Tests in PoLand) project. The objective of the said initiative was to test the GNSS “LION” receiver designed for research, EO and telecommunication satellite platforms.

Currently Astri Polska is working on another two projects in the domain of satellite navigation, alongside the AGGA-4 initiative. Both undertakings are being worked on for ESA. These are: TEcHNO (Test Environment for Hybrid NavigatiOn) - a project, the goal of which is to develop hybrid navigation solutions (GNSS + LTE) and FLIGhT - here the company is tasked with designing and creating adaptive software that would allow for integration of different hardware, for the purpose of creating a comprehensive test environment for a variety of hardware components, including the GNSS receivers. FLIGhT programme is driven primarily towards testing of receivers designed for space applications.

Read More:Visit at ESTEC Begins the Polish Work on an ESA Project


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