SpaceX's Starlink satellites may be used for navigation and global positioning in addition to their core function of broadband Internet, a new research study suggests.
Engineering researchers external to SpaceX found a way to use the Starlink constellation signals for navigation similar to the capabilities provided by global positioning satellites (GPS), which are used in the United States and several other countries. The study represents the first time Starlink was used for navigation by researchers outside of SpaceX, the team members stated.
Researchers triangulated the signals from six Starlink satellites to fix upon a location on Earth with less than 27 feet (eight meters) of accuracy, the team reported in a statement. That's pretty comparable to the typical GPS capabilities of a smartphone, which typically pinpoints your spot on Earth to within 16 feet (4.9 m), depending on the conditions.
"We eavesdropped on the signal, and then we designed sophisticated algorithms to pinpoint our location, and we showed that it works with great accuracy," study author Zak Kassas, director of the Center for Automated Vehicles Research with Multimodal Assured Navigation (CARMEN) at Ohio State University, said in the statement.