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TrustPoint launches PNT cubesat

TrustPoint Inc., a start-up developing a global satellite navigation system based on cubesats, launched its first satellite on April 15 during the SpaceX Transporter-7 mission.

For TrustPoint, based in Leesburg, Virginia, the launch was the culmination of years of work aimed at proving that a cubesat could carry high-precision positioning, navigation, and timing data.

“As far as we know, this is the first specifically built PNT microsatellite funded by commercial dollars,” said TrustPoint co-founder and CEO Patrick Shannon.

TrustPoint raised $2 million in 2021 for its growing low Earth orbit constellation campaign to offer global PNT data “at a fraction of the cost of one GPS block from three satellites,” Shannon said. “The team has been working to develop our core technologies, moving from concept to prototype, to demonstrations and testing. This mission was the centerpiece of those efforts.”

As part of its first mission called It’s About Time, TrustPoint will focus on testing, calibration, and optimization of its payload technology. After commissioning, TrustPoint will assume control of the satellite and conduct a series of tests and demonstrations.

TrustPoint has not disclosed the size of the cubesat or the satellite’s manufacturer. Maverick Space Systems, a launch services provider and ride-share aggregator, supported TrustPoint’s launch.

Backup to GPS

Like other positioning, navigation, and timing technology developers, TrustPoint has no intention of replacing GPS, but is responding to calls from the US government for backup or additional technologies.

“With this mission, we are accelerating the influence of commercial technology and innovation cycles on the world of timing and navigation, which may be some of the most promising and important satellite services available today,” Shannon said in a statement.

The small satellite manufacturing ecosystem combined with affordable and accessible launches allows TrustPoint to demonstrate its PNT concept quickly and inexpensively, said Chris DeMay, co-founder and COO of TrustPoint. “I don’t know if we could have done this even 10 years ago. The timing is right. The demand is there,” DeMay added.

Shannon said TrustPoint was able to “contract and deliver a flight-ready spacecraft in less than 10 months.”

US military contracts

TrustPoint has won small business innovation research contracts from the US Air Force and US Space Force.

“The contracts keep us financially afloat, but more importantly, they give us access to the right people,” DeMay said.

US military officials cite GPS jamming and spoofing as growing concerns.

General B. Chance Saltzman, commander of US Space Operations, discussed the threat posed by Chinese electronic warfare jammers targeting GPS satellites in March during testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We’re here to help solve the problem,” DeMay said.

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