Celestial Navigation System for Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessels

Navy SBIR 22.2 - Topic N222-089
MCSC - Marine Corps Systems Command
Opens: May 18, 2022 - Closes: June 15, 2022 (12:00pm est)    [ View Q&A ]

N222-089 TITLE: Celestial Navigation System for Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessels

OUSD (R&E) MODERNIZATION PRIORITY: Autonomy; General Warfighting Requirements (GWR)

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace Environments;Electronics; Sensors

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop an optical celestial system (CNS) to provide position and timing updates to an inertial navigation system on a Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel (LRUSV) during day and night.

DESCRIPTION: The LRUSV is a 40-foot autonomous boat designed to operate at ranges up to 1,000 nautical miles and launch loitering munitions to engage enemy targets afloat and ashore. The LRUSV must maintain accurate knowledge of position and time for navigation. During hostilities, reliance on GPS is ill advised as GPS can be degraded, denied, or spoofed. The size of the LRUSV will not permit the use of a purely Inertial Navigation System (INS) and therefore the INS will require periodic updates. Use of active sensors can disclose the vesselís location.

Celestial Navigation (CELNAV) is a technique which has been around for hundreds of years. Traditional CELNAV does not provide the accuracy required for LRUSVís mission. Recently, the U.S. Navy demonstrated that optically tracking satellites, combined with CELNAV, provides a high accuracy system which functions both day and night. However, that systemís size is far too great for LRUSVs.

A CNS will provide position updates to the LRUSVís INS as available. It will function in Wilbur Marks Sea State 3 conditions, and function day and night. It will provide an accurate estimate of position errors and operate without any user input. It is desired that the CNS also provide time updates to the INS. The CNS does not have a firm size requirement; however the CNS must be smaller than the Navyís ACNS which is 1 cubic meter topside plus a 5U computer rack.

The CNS is not required to optically track satellites in addition to celestial objects; candidate CNSs without this ability will be considered. Optically tracking satellites to provide improved accuracy when combined with celestial measurements is permitted. The CNS will be purely passive. The use of satellite RF signals to determine position is not permitted for this system.

While the CNS is not expected to provide position and time updates in all weather conditions; the use of infrared imagers, expanding the field of view, and other methods can increase system availability.

PHASE I: Develop concepts for the CNS, which includes models permitting system trades to be evaluated by the program office. The system trades include accuracy and availability (due to cloud cover) as well as size, weight, power, and cost. Position accuracy of less than 100 meters is desired.

Demonstrate the feasibility of the concepts in meeting Marine Corps needs. Establish that the concepts can be developed into a useful product for the Marine Corps. Feasibility will be established by material testing and analytical modeling, as appropriate. Provide a Phase II development plan with performance goals and key technical milestones, and that addresses technical risk reduction.

PHASE II: Develop a scaled prototype. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in the Phase II development plan and the Marine Corps requirements for the CNS. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and modeling or analytical methods over the required range of parameters, including numerous deployment cycles. Refine the prototype, based on evaluation results, into an initial design that will meet Marine Corps requirements. Prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Marine Corps use.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Marine Corps in transitioning the technology for Marine Corps use. Develop the CNS for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. Support the Marine Corps for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Marine Corps use.

The potential for commercial and dual-use is significant. Improved CELNAV provides a backup to GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems. CELNAV, which is small enough for a 40-foot vessel, is applicable to many other manned or unmanned vehicles, such as larger sea vessels, aircraft, and ground vehicles. The CNS can be utilized by law enforcement to maintain UAV surveillance if GPS is jammed.


  1. United States Government Accountability Report to the Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate, May 2021 "Technology Assessment Ė Defense Navigation Capabilities." https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-21-320sp.pdf
  2. Kaplan, G. H.: "Angles-Only Navigation: Position and Velocity Solution from Absolute Triangulation", Navigation, Vol. 58, No. 3,2011, pp. 187-201. https://gkaplan.us/content/nav_by_angles_ION_v5.pdf
  3. Wilbur Marks Wind & Wave Scale - https://navysbir.com/n22_2/N222-089_REF_3_Wilbur_Marks_Wind_and_Wave_Scale.pdf

KEYWORDS: Celestial Navigation; Satellite Tracking; Inertial Navigation; Autonomy; Long Range Unmanned Surface Vehicle; LRUSV


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 22.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/ for any updates.

The DoD issued its 22.2 SBIR BAA pre-release on April 20, 2022, which opens to receive proposals on May 18, 2022, and closes June 15, 2022 (12:00pm est).

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** TOPIC Q&A **
Questions answered 5/10/22
Q1. Will the Wilbur Marks Sea State 3 conditions be made available as a reference for this topic?
A1. Yes, we have made this available as a reference. For the Wilbur Marks Wind & Wave Scale please visit - navysbir.com/n22_2/N222-089_REF_3_Wilbur_Marks_Wind_and_Wave_Scale.pdf
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