(ORDO NEWS) — SpaceX‘s Starlink satellite Internet could be rebuilt to function as a global positioning system (GPS), according to a new paper published by researchers at the University of Texas. To do this, scientists had to intercept signals from satellites.
A study published in MIT Technology Review explores the possibility of using Starlink satellite signals for Position, Navigation, and Time (PNT) coordinates. Initially, the researchers found that the antenna was internally protected, and considering that time is critical to GPS, but the clock on the Starlink dish proved to be unreliable.
Therefore, for the experiment, it was decided to make their own signal receiver, for which a steerable parabolic antenna was used with publicly available data from SpaceX about the coordinates of the Starlink satellites.
In order to ensure that signals were always available for “listening”, the Starlink terminal constantly downloaded high-definition videos from YouTube.
The test showed that the Starlink signal is divided into eight channels, each of which has a bandwidth of 240 MHz.
Of these, SpaceX is only using six channels, and two channels at the bottom are empty – the authors suggest that this is because they are close to the frequencies used by astronomers.
Using a signal for positioning involves analyzing its timing sequences. When transmitted from a satellite to an antenna, the signal uses the so-called orthogonal frequency division multiplexing OFDM.
This allows the main signal to be split into several smaller signals, and the cymbal is responsible for merging or “synchronizing” them when received.
A separate receiver, like the one they used, can be used to predict timing sequences, which can then be used to reproduce a signal that matches the variables needed for GPS positioning, the researchers say.
In addition, they also found that the reproduced signal has a strong correlation with the real Starlink signal.
This study also shows that it is very easy to tamper with Starlink coverage, as attackers need only create signals with a timing similar to Starlink signals to confuse user terminals.
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