Press Release

  • Home>
  • Press Release>
  • JAXA and MetCom commence collaborative efforts on the Terrestrial PNT*1 System.>

JAXA and MetCom commence collaborative efforts on the Terrestrial PNT*1 System.
~ Outdoor / Indoor / Underground seamless PNT ~

February 29, 2024 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
MetCom, Inc.

 MetCom, Inc. (Representative Director: HIRASAWA Hiroki; hereinafter, “MetCom”) *2 and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (President: YAMAKAWA Hiroshi; hereinafter, “JAXA”) have embarked on co-creation activities related to terrestrial PNT(Positioning, Navigation and Timing) system under the framework of JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation (J-SPARC) *3, a program that aims to create space-related businesses based on unconventional approaches.

 The co-creation project aims to improve the accuracy of time synchronization between base stations, a key contributor to accurate terrestrial PNT, by two orders of magnitude. Specifically, the time synchronization information gained through Multi-GNSS Advanced Orbit and Clock Augmentation - Precise Point Positioning (MADOCA-PPP) *4 utilizing centimeter-level positioning augmentation signals, will be incorporated into the Metropolitan Beacon System (MBS), MetCom’s planned 3D PNT service that will allow the provision of seamless location information in urban areas, whether underground, indoors or outdoors. In addition, by integrating JAXA’s array antenna technology*5 under development into the satellite signal receiving antenna at ground base stations to be constructed by MetCom, interference resistance and security will be enhanced. The co-creation project aims to provide seamless, highly precise and secure 3D location information indoors and outdoors, from basement to high-rise floors.

[Background to the co-creation activities]

 Due to the development of satellite positioning systems including the U.S. global positioning system (GPS) and Japan’s Quasi-Zenith Satellite System “Michibiki” (QZSS), the utilization of location information has become an integral part of our daily lives. However, it has been a major premise that location information is for outdoor use. A range of ideas have been proposed to break the premise, but no service that can provide seamless indoor/outdoor positioning at a feasible cost and accuracy has emerged yet.

 The MBS 3D PNT service planned to be offered by MetCom aims to seamlessly provide location information whether underground, indoors or outdoors, breaking the presupposed notion that location information is for outdoor use. Transmitting positioning signals from proprietary ground base stations enables the signals to be carried by radio waves that ensure a significantly higher reception strength than satellite ranging signals, allowing them to reach underground and indoor locations. Moreover, the time distribution service also under plan by MetCom aims to deliver time information on radio waves featuring a far higher reception strength than satellite signals, thereby enhancing resistance to radio interference. Anticipated use cases of the time distribution service include highly stable and reliable time synchronization for mission-critical operations such as telecommunication systems, financial networks, data centers, and power grid networks.

[Details of the co-creation activities]

 MetCom will incorporate time information based on MADOCA-PPP into the time synchronization process of the MBS 3D PNT system. Compared with using only GPS for time synchronization, the adoption of MADOCA-PPP-based time information is expected to enhance the positioning accuracy between base stations by two digits, narrowing down the distance error from several meters to several centimeters. Furthermore, MetCom will examine the effectiveness of adopting JAXA’s array antenna technology currently under development into the satellite signal receiving antenna for the ground base stations that it plans to construct, and provide JAXA with feedback to help its development of the technology.

 JAXA will conduct R&D on time synchronization technology using MADOCA-PPP and on array antenna technology. Specifically, JAXA will develop and test a 1 pulse per second (PPS) calibration device, and add a high-precision time synchronization function to its precise point positioning software (MALIB) currently under development, with the aim of opening up new applications for the MADOCA-PPP service. In addition, JAXA will conduct R&D on enhancing interference resistance by replacing satellite signal receiving antennas at ground base stations into the developing array antennas. Positioning signals transmitted from satellites travel long distances, weakening in strength when received. This makes them susceptible to jamming and spoofing. By using array antennas to increase directivity and allowing them to preferentially receive positioning signals from QZSS, JAXA aims to enhance resistance to jamming and spoofing, thereby improving security, safety and reliability.

 In the first couple of years of the co-creation initiative, MetCom and JAXA will independently conduct R&D, running a feedback loop for incorporating the outcomes into the MBS 3D PNT system. Subsequently, the two parties will aim to achieve a highly accurate and secure and safe terrestrial PNT system that incorporates their respective technologies.

[The future we envision]

 If the co-creation initiative successfully provides highly accurate, safe and seamless location information whether underground, indoors or outdoors, it may provide a range of solutions, such as monitoring the location of children or the elderly within buildings or on basement floors, pinpointing the location of firefighters unable to move during rescue operations in a building fire following the loss of radio communication, and finding the location of a lost in-flight drone or air mobility. In addition, the service will provide a backup means for existing satellite positioning systems, ensuring that users can always obtain location information essential in everyday life. Through the co-creation, JAXA and MetCom will seek to achieve a society where reliable positioning services unbound by time or place can be taken for granted.

[To protect our country and society]

 The satellite PNT system is essential for the stable operation of social infrastructure such as transportation, power grids, and communication infrastructure. There have recently been numerous incidents worldwide that make it difficult or impossible to use the system, including jamming and spoofing. Amid such increasingly apparent threat, the world is becoming more aware of the necessity of PNT systems to complement satellite positioning service. In the US, European Union (EU) and UK, complementary PNT initiatives are underway by the governments.

 Given such circumstances, the collaboration between JAXA and MetCom, which combines the Japanese government’s QZSS and MetCom’s MBS terrestrial PNT system, can also be deemed as a pursuit to establish a complementary PNT system that can be controlled and operated in Japan. The new initiative also has profound significance in this respect.

*1 PNT
"PNT" stands for "Positioning, Navigation and Timing." It refers to systems and technologies that provide information about the positioning (location) and navigation (direction and movement) of objects or individuals, and timing (time).  One common example of PNT systems is the Global Positioning System (GPS), which is widely used for navigation and location-based services.

*2 MetCom, Inc.
 MetCom, Inc. is a provider of wide-area high-precision 3D location information that visualizes "what, when, and where.". The company’s 3D PNT service that can be used seamlessly both outdoors and indoors provides solutions to major challenges faced by GPS—indoor/underground positioning, vertical positioning and security issues. NextNav, a U.S. company and the global leader in this field, is a major shareholder of MetCom. Based on a partnership with NextNav, MetCom will achieve the world’s highest standard positioning service. The company’s goal is to achieve a safe and secure society in Japan as well as to develop and operate social infrastructure that offers highly convenient lives for the people of the country.

*3 JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation (J-SPARC)
 J-SPARC (JAXA Space Innovation through Partnership and Co-creation) is a co-creative R&D program that starts through dialogue between JAXA and companies in the private sector that aim for space business. Based on their respective commitments to commercialization, JAXA and the companies will jointly make examinations for a business concept and develop and demonstrate technologies in an exit-oriented manner toward gaining new technologies for the creation of a new business. This co-creative R&D program was launched in May 2018, and so far under the program, about a total of 40 projects and activities were conducted, which also contributed to the launch (commercialization and start of service) of various businesses by companies in the private sector, including those related to food, daily goods, education, VR, entertainment, avatar, communication and small satellite constellations. For the co-creation of a business concept, activities such as market research and concept examination will be conducted, and for the joint demonstration of a new business, activities such as joint feasibility study for commercialization as well as joint technological development and demonstration will be conducted.

(Multi-GNSS Advanced Demonstration tool for Orbit and Clock Analysis-Precise Point Positioning)
 MADOCA is software developed by JAXA to achieve high-precision multiple global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) orbit and clock estimation.
 MADOCA-PPP is a high-precision positioning augmentation service aimed at achieving centimeter-level positioning based on augmented information generated by MADOCA. The Cabinet Office is scheduled to officially start providing the distribution service from QZSS in 2024. JAXA is working to improve the functional performance of MADOCA, while also developing the technology required to support the diverse applications of high-precision positioning using MADOCA-PPP.

*5 Array antenna technology
 Technology to enhance resistance to radio interference by using array antenna. The Aviation Safety Innovation Hub of JAXA’s Aviation Technology Directorate, Mitsubishi Precision Company, Limited, Chubu University, Osaka Metropolitan University, and the National Institute of Technology (Kosen), Nagano College are jointly implementing research and development under the theme, “Research for practical application of GPS interference signal suppression based on CRPA technology.”

< Comment from HIRASAWA Hiroki, Representative Director, MetCom, Inc. >

 The social mission of MetCom is to turn location information into genuine social infrastructure that can be used whenever, wherever and by whomever. With the aim of fulfilling the social mission, MetCom strives to provide seamless indoor/outdoor 3D PNT service by using terrestrial PNT systems to solve the structural issues posed by satellite positioning systems while securing compatibility with them.

 Through this co-creation initiative with JAXA, we will combine the high interference resistance based on the directivity of QZSS and MetCom’s high signal reception strength distinctive to terrestrial systems, and in addition, capitalize on MADOCA-PPP’s time information, which is higher in accuracy by double digits. Through this endeavor, we hope to establish a highly stable and reliable positioning system and timing service in Japan, thereby contributing to ensuring safety and security of society and enhancing convenience.

< Comment from KOGURE Satoshi, Senior Chief Officer of Satellite Navigation Technology, Space Technology Directorate I, JAXA >

 At JAXA’s Satellite Navigation Unit, we are engaging in R&D on the sophistication of the MADOCA software, which conducts precise orbit/clock estimation for QSZZ, GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and BDS and the use of correction information for high-precision positioning generated by MADOCA, and are seeking for social implementation. We engage in these initiatives in partnerships with POC-DC Ltd. and CORE CORPORATION.

The use of high-precision positioning services including centimeter-level positioning has been drawing attention primarily from the perspective of user positioning accuracy. Under the collaborative initiative with MetCom, we will be working together to sophisticate and commercialize MetCom’s terrestrial PNT and time synchronization services as a way to find new applications for high-precision timing obtained simultaneously with location information. I have been personally engaging in R&D of indoor/outdoor seamless positioning using the indoor messaging system (IMES), so I would be delighted to make a significant contribution to achieving seamless positioning through this co-creation project. I also believe that the services will mitigate the vulnerability of satellite positioning systems and enhance the reliability of Urban Air Mobility (UAM) called as “flying cars” and drone delivery, so I will work hard to contribute to the sophistication of the services.

< Comment from FUJIWARA Takeshi, Hub Manager, Aviation Safety Innovation Hub, Aviation Technology Directorate, JAXA >

 JAXA’s Aviation Safety Innovation Hub conducts R&D on technology for increasing interference resistance upon receiving signals from GPS and other positioning satellites by using array antenna with the aim of enhancing the reliability of satellite positioning.

 Array antenna, in principle, requires large antenna aperture areas, making it virtually impossible to mount on small mobile objects such as mobile terminals and small drones. However, if the co-creation with MetCom’s planned terrestrial PNT system succeeds, array antenna will only need to be installed at a small number of ground base stations, enabling us to provide small mobile users with reliable positioning service.

 The development of electronic equipment has been increasing our vulnerability to radio waves. We hope to contribute to the realization of a safe and secure society through our R&D on array antenna technology.