SAN FRANCISCO — TrustPoint Inc., a startup developing a cubesat-based global navigation satellite system, launched its first satellite April 15 on the SpaceX Transporter-7 rideshare flight.
For Leesburg, Virginia-based TrustPoint, the launch was the culmination of years of work aimed at proving that a highly accurate position, navigation and timing source can be contained in a cubesat.
“As far as we’re aware, this is the first commercially funded, purpose-built PNT microsatellite,” Patrick Shannon, TrustPoint co-founder and CEO, told SpaceNews.
It’s About Time
TrustPoint raised $2 million in 2021 for its campaign to establish a proliferated constellation in low-Earth orbit to offer global PNT data “at a fraction of the cost of a single GPS block three satellites,” Shannon said. “The team has been working to develop our core technologies, taking them from concept to prototype to demonstration and tests. This mission has been the focal point for that effort.”
With the first mission, called It’s About Time, TrustPoint will focus on testing, calibration and optimization of its payload technology. After commissioning, TrustPoint will take control of the satellite and operate it through a series of tests and demonstrations.
TrustPoint has not revealed the size of the cubesat nor the satellite manufacturer. Maverick Space Systems, a launch services provider and rideshare aggregator, supported the TrustPoint launch.
TrustPoint, like other startups developing positioning, navigation and timing technology don’t intend to replace GPS, but are responding to U.S. government calls for backup or complementary technologies.
“With this mission, we are expediting the impact of commercial technologies and innovation cycles on the world of timing and navigation, arguably one of the most far reaching and critical satellite services today,” Shannon said in a statement.
The small satellite manufacturing ecosystem coupled with the affordability and availability of launches is allowing TrustPoint to rapidly and affordably demonstrate its PNT concept, said Chris DeMay, TrustPoint co-founder and chief operations officer. “I don’t know that we could have done this a decade ago even. The timing is right. The demand is there,” DeMay added.
Shannon said that TrustPoint was able “to initiate a contract and deliver a spacecraft ready for launch in under 10 months.”
U.S. Military Contracts
TrustPoint has won Small Business Innovation Research contracts from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force.
“The contracts support us financially, but even more importantly they allow us to have conversations with the right people,” DeMay said.
U.S. military officials cite GPS interference and jamming as a growing concern.
Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, U.S. Space Force chief of space operations, discussed the threat posed by Chinese electronic warfare jammers targeting GPS satellites in March while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“We’re here to help solve the problem,” DeMay said.