The Spanish multinational GMV has closed a contract worth 180 million euros with the industrial corporation Lockheed Martin to develop in Australia and New Zealand the key technologies of SouthPAN, the first automatic system to increase and improve the accuracy of positioning and navigation signals in the southern hemisphere.
"A 180 million euro contract is not won overnight," stresses Jorge Potti, head of Strategic Management at the Spanish technology group. The executive emphasises that it is the result of "the effort and tenacity of the company's General Manager of Navigation Systems, Miguel Romay".
Considered to be the largest individual agreement ever reached by the Spanish space industry outside the European Union, Romay and his team have been "demonstrating step by step to the Australian and New Zealand authorities and technicians the advantages provided by GMV's technology and proposals" since the middle of the last decade.
The implementation of the South Positioning Augmentation Network (SouthPAN) is a joint project of the Australian and New Zealand governments in collaboration with the Lockheed Martin-GMV alliance, with the aim of providing both countries with high-precision satellite navigation and positioning services by 2025. Its raison d'être is to drive innovation and growth in the most important industrial sectors of both countries: mining, aerospace, shipbuilding, rail and public works and services.
GMV is committed to developing the augmentation processing and control centres involved in the SouthPAN system based on signals provided by the US GPS constellation and the European Galileo constellation. The end result will be that Australians and New Zealanders will be able to access services that will improve their positioning accuracy on land, at sea and in the air, from the current 5/10 metres to as much as 10 centimetres provided by the new system, without the need for mobile phone or internet coverage.
First services activated
Such a degree of precision "is a real barbarity", says Jorge Potti, who adds that, from a technological point of view, it is a project "of enormous scope, an amazing thing". The reason for this is that it is a development based "on our own second-generation technology, which we are going to configure practically from scratch and which involves a huge workload, for which we need between 150 and 200 highly qualified technical people".
SouthPAN is a satellite-based multi-frequency system whose embryo dates back eight years. "GMV's first step was to deploy a demonstrator at risk and gradually expand its functionalities," explains Potti. There is now a network of ground stations and a geostationary satellite of the Inmarsat constellation that broadcasts the corrections.
SouthPAN's entry into service in 2025 will mean that both Australia and New Zealand will join the small list of countries and regions with Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS).
SBAS networks improve the horizontal and vertical positioning of users and provide information on signal quality. The United States has its own national SBAS system (WAAS), as do the European Union (EGNOS), India (GAGAN) and Japan (MSAS). GMV has been working on SBAS systems for more than 25 years, to the extent that it is the company that has designed, developed and also maintains the European EGNOS correction calculation centre.
GMV's technology enabled the early activation of an SBAS testbed for SouthPAN's first open services on 26 September, providing accessibility to applications that do not require Safety Of Life certification.
To develop the economies of Australia and New Zealand
The development, commissioning and operation of the SouthPAN system in Australia is overseen by Geoscience Australia. In New Zealand it is carried out by Land Information New Zealand, the official institutions of the governments of Canberra and Wellington, respectively, which are the equivalent in Spain of the National Geographic Institute.
From the point of view of GMV's general manager, Jesús Serrano, the contract "strengthens GMV's position in the space sector and its global contribution in satellite navigation". The fact that this is an initiative that generates new highly qualified jobs consolidates GMV as the largest employer in the space sector in Spain - with more than 2,500 professionals - and places the company in fifth place in the European Union in terms of the number of personnel.
GMV is responsible for developing the two subsystems that are the key components of SouthPAN. On the one hand, the Processing Centre or CPF (Corrections Processing Facility), which generates the messages that correct the signals transmitted by the North American GPS satellite constellation and the European Galileo satellite constellation, providing users with a positioning accuracy of 10 centimetres. The CPF is also responsible for detecting satellite failures and generating warnings to users.
It also assumes the development of the Ground Control Centre (GCC), which provides the necessary functions to monitor and control the system on a 24/7 basis, as well as providing information to the user communities on the operation of the system and the availability of its services.
The SouthPAN Control Centre in Australia is located in Uralla, 560 kilometres north of the nation's capital, Canberra. New Zealand's is in Invercargill, on the tip of the country's South Island, some 800 kilometres by plane from Wellington, the capital. The new network is strategic for the economic future of the Australasian region, as acknowledged by the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Madeleine King.