SENER Aeroespacial
Madrid, Spain
(+34) 918077318
www.aeroespacial.sener/en

SENER Aeroespacial, a company of the SENER engineering and technology group, has signed a contract with AVIO for the C/D phases of the NAVIGA navigation unit for the VEGA-C launcher, VNE (VEGA-C Navigation Equipment), after successfully completing phases A (feasibility study) and B (preliminary design). Phase C involves the development of the detailed design, and phase D is the qualification and delivery phase of the first flight model.

SENER Aeroespacial is the design authority for this unit, which will be delivered to the customer as an integrated product. This contract paves the way for the mass production of navigation units for subsequent launches of VEGA-C and other space missions.

The navigation unit uses a six-axis compass (position and attitude of the launcher) to provide the rocket's position to the Guidance, Navigation and Control (CNG) system, developed by AVIO, which is necessary to steer the rocket. NAVIGA is thus a critical component for the success of the mission.

NAVIGA combines an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) and a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver and hybridizes the two readings to achieve a high-performance product – its software is Class A, the most critical in the space industry – but also low-cost compared to the inertial navigation units available on the market. NAVIGA combines two key elements for future space transportation systems: low cost and versatility. The design of a unit capable of achieving the same performance as other similar space navigation units at a lower cost was made possible by combining the company's experience in space navigation solutions with technical knowledge in the development of high-precision aviation and defense products for complex environments.

The three implementation aspects applied to the project to reduce the recurring cost of the unit, while maintaining the required performance, are: the use of sensor hybridization techniques to provide a robust navigation solution; the inclusion of radiation-tolerant parts from the automotive market (new in space); and the adoption of defense production processes to manufacture the unit.

Another key element, versatility, is achieved via the unit's modular and flexible design, which allows a complete and certified unit to be adapted with minor modifications and testing, to other environments such as short-duration space missions. Supplementing these two key elements is the fact that NAVIGA is a fully European unit, which renders any ITAR restrictions irrelevant.

This project is the result of the partnership between the Italian companies AVIO and CIVITANAVI Systems and the Spanish company Elecnor DEIMOS. The VNE/NAVIGA project is funded by European Space Agency (ESA).

SENER Aeroespacial has been supplying high-performance aerospace systems for space, defense and science for more than 50 years. In space, it supplies electromechanical components and systems, navigation systems (GNC/AOCS), communications, astronomy and optics systems, and it is currently participating in the main programs of ESA and NASA (including Euclid, Meteosat Third Generation, Solar Orbiter, JUICE, Proba-3, Hubble, Galileo, Rosetta, Gaia, Herschel and Planck, IXV, BepiColombo and Mars 2020) and the European Southern Observatory.

In the commercial space market, SENER Aeroespacial is a supplier of telemetry and telecommand antennas and a regular supplier of all types of antennas, passive equipment, and radio frequency assets for international manufacturers of communications satellites.

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Aerospace & Defense Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the June, 2021 issue of Aerospace & Defense Technology Magazine.

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