Space researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have been granted $600,000 to improve technology that cuts the cost of building satellites and lessens navigation interference.

The federal government funding is being provided to two teams at the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research (ACSER) as part of the latest round of the Australian Research Council's (ARC) Linkage Project scheme.

For the past 8 years, researchers from ACSER and the University of Adelaide have worked with GPSat Systems Australia to create a prototype that pinpoints attempts to jam or fake GPS signals.

Relatively weak radio-frequency can jam GPS signals and receivers. GPS signals can also be faked in a process called 'spoofing', which presents serious reliability and security risks, UNSW said.

Researchers will use the latest round of funding to make the prototype capable of detecting even weak interference before it can wreak havoc on a GPS, UNSW said. They will also be able to develop algorithms that can locate jamming or spoofing equipment to within five metres.

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Since 2004, UNSW and New Zealand's General Dynamics Corporation have been working together to establish how space-based electronics can be reconfigured while in orbit to combat the effects of radiation. Errors may impact data transmission to and from satellites.

The results of this research will be trialled on a small Australian "QB50" satellite currently being developed in ACSER's labs. The satellite is due for launch during the funded project, UNSW said.

The researchers hope they will be able to use commercial off-the-shelf electronics rather than more expensive radiation-hardened components.

"The expected outcomes could potentially be applied to allow space-based digital systems to be designed and implemented more cheaply," said ACSER director Professor Peter Dempster.

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