Researchers decode Starlink for use as a GPS alternative

Researchers have reverse-engineered Starlink‘s signal for potential use as a GPS alternative.

In a non-peer-reviewed paper, the University of Texas Austin researchers claim they have decoded Starlink downlink signals to locate Starlink receivers within 30 metres.

The method is not as accurate as GPA, but with some help from Starlink, the researchers believe that the technology could be more accurate.

The team has been working on the problem since 2020 after talks between SpaceX, the US Army, and the team broke down.

The US Army is still interested in using the Starlink satellite array for GPS as it could be more accurate than traditional GPS and is resistant to jamming.

The team’s lead researcher, University of Texas Austin professor Todd Humphrey said this to The Register:

This wouldn’t take [SpaceX] much work and would require only modest changes to the satellite software. Whether that software update is even a twinkle in Elon’s eye is unknown – we’ve reached out to SpaceX to learn more about its plans but haven’t heard back.

As per Humphrey, the fix would be a simple clock correction for each satellite, reducing errors to under one metre.

SpaceX nor Elon Musk provided a comment on the paper or its claims as of yet.

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