The Evaluation of Satellite Navigation System in a Secluded Island Laboratory

Satellite navigation has become an integral part of our daily lives, enabling applications such as guiding aircraft, driverless cars, and emergency response systems. However, these satnav systems are not immune to potential vulnerabilities, such as jamming and spoofing. To assess the impact of these vulnerabilities and test innovative technologies for detection and mitigation, the European Space Agency (ESA) recently participated in a campaign organized by Norwegian governmental authorities known as Jammertest.

Jammertest, one of the world’s largest jamming testing campaigns, took place from 18 to 22 September in the remote area of Andøya, Norway. The campaign aimed to interfere with the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) signal in a controlled environment to study the resilience of satnav systems against jamming, spoofing, and meaconing. The Norwegian Communications Authority, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, and the Norwegian Metrology Service organized Jammertest with the support of the Norwegian Space Agency.

For this mission beyond Dutch borders, ESA’s navigation testbed vehicle, usually based at ESTEC in the Netherlands, was equipped with a variety of satnav receivers, antennas, interference monitoring equipment, anti-jamming antennas, and other interference mitigation systems. The vehicle also carried an inertial navigation system as a reference for comparing readings from the receivers to the actual position of the vehicle. Additionally, an electronic support system, special batteries, radiofrequency equipment, and battery backups were included in the van.

The team of navigation engineers from ESTEC used this upgraded testbed vehicle to evaluate the performance and resilience of satnav systems against jamming, spoofing, and meaconing. They also assessed the capabilities of monitoring and mitigation systems. The challenging location of Andøya added to the complexity of the testing, as fewer satellites are visible due to the high latitude, and potential ionospheric activity can interfere with signals.

The equipment tested during Jammertest included devices developed within ESA’s Navigation Innovation and Support Programme (NAVISP). One such device was a portable compact Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) detection system developed by SINTEF. This system could record, analyze, and classify interfering signals as soon as they were detected. Another device tested was a NAVISP-funded demonstrator receiver developed by FocalPoint, which utilized their patented Supercorrelation technology to improve GNSS accuracy, sensitivity, and integrity, making it more resilient to jamming attacks and capable of detecting spoofed signals.

Jammertest provided ESA with a unique opportunity to complement lab tests of the Galileo system, the European global navigation satellite system, in real outdoor environments. As the Galileo System Design Authority, ESA can use the data collected during the testing campaign to further improve the system’s resilience against vulnerabilities.

The five-day testing campaign produced terabytes of data that will be analyzed at ESTEC. This extensive database will support internal research and development activities for years to come. Ground and User Segment Engineer Luciano Musumeci emphasized the success of the primary campaign objective, stating, “We can use these data for years to come.”

Jammertest 2023 brought together participants from governmental agencies, industry, and academia to assess the impact of jamming and spoofing on satnav systems. The campaign provided valuable insights into the performance and resilience of satnav systems, as well as innovative technologies for detection and mitigation. With the continuous improvement cycle of satnav systems, efforts like Jammertest contribute to ensuring the reliability and security of satellite navigation in our daily lives.