Telespazio UK awarded ESA contract for the development of GNSS Vector Tracking Loops for Autonomous Vehicles

28 February 2023

Telespazio UK, a subsidiary of Telespazio (a 67/33% joint venture between Leonardo and Thales), is excited to announce that it has been awarded a €600,000 contract by ESA, the European Space Agency.  As part of ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NavISP), Telespazio UK has been awarded the contract for the development of GNSS Receiver Vector Tracking Loops for Autonomous Vehicles (VTL4AV).

Telespazio UK is the prime contractor to ESA for the project and will be working with strong and expert sub-contractors, Cranfield University and Spirent Communications.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have become the primary means of navigation and source of Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) information for almost all modes of transport, general navigation and timing purposes. Yet, all GNSS are vulnerable to natural interference, deliberate and accidental jamming, and spoofing. Moreover, because of the geometry of GNSS flying in Medium Earth Orbit and the number of satellites in the constellation, there are other issues. Where users are operating in so-called “urban canyons”, or within dense vegetation, or in deep valleys for instance, they can have a limited view of the satellites and hence have trouble calculating a position. Clearly, this is unacceptable when delivering a safety-critical service, such as operating autonomous vehicles in public areas or when other safety parameters are paramount.

To tackle these challenging problems, the VTL4AV project will utilise the strong alliance and experience of our consortium to design and develop a Receiver implementing “Vector Tracking Loops” (VTL) techniques. It will also create a fault detection and isolation strategy to ensure integrity in urban environments, whilst supporting multiple GNSS constellations. The benefits of this architecture will be demonstrated in both simulated environments and in a real environment such as the City of London where urban canyons, signal masking, interference and multipath can be expected.

Mark Hewer, Telespazio UK CEO, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to be part of this important ESA project which will build on the work that has already been done within the Alternative-PNT arena, especially with new GNSS receiver concepts. We are pleased to be leading such a strong team and look forward to developing a proof of concept that will help provide position resiliency in vehicle autonomy, potentially making a difference to our daily lives in the future.”

Stefano Binda, NAVISP Element 1 Manager at ESA, said: “ESA is very pleased to award this contract, under its NAVISP programme, to Telespazio UK and its sub-contractors. Telespazio has a great deal of experience working on PNT and the provision of alternative and complementary solutions to GNSS. We look forward to working with Telespazio UK and its sub-contractors on this important project for the resilience of PNT solutions for Autonomous Vehicles.”


The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Space Agency.