Mark Psiaki honored with the Johannes Kepler Award from the Institute of Navigation
Virginia Tech Professor Mark Psiaki has been awarded a prestigious international prize from the Institute of Navigation for setting a standard of rigor, clarity, and thoroughness in addressing key estimation and signal processing problems in positioning, navigation, and timing.
Psiaki was recently presented with the Johannes Kepler Award at the ION GNSS+ 2021 Conference, which took place in St. Louis, Missouri, in late September. The Kepler Award recognizes and honors an individual for significant and sustained contributions to the development of satellite navigation. It is the highest honor bestowed by the Institute of Navigation’s Satellite Division.
“I feel like I’m walking on air,” said Psiaki. “This is the top honor bestowed by the navigation community. The announcement was a great surprise and I felt extremely honored to accept the award in person, amongst my peers, past winners, and giants in this field.”
Psiaki is the Kevin Crofton Faculty Chair of Aerospace and Ocean Engineering at Virginia Tech and a distinguished scholar in the field of dynamics and control. His research concentrations are in navigation using the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), GPS/GNSS spoofing and jamming (when adversaries may attempt to disrupt position, navigation, and time solutions), and spacecraft attitude and orbit determination. He was nominated by his former Ph.D. student, Todd Humphreys, who currently serves as a professor in the aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics department at the University of Texas at Austin.
Psiaki originated the technique of bit-wise parallel radio frequency signal processing for use in general-purpose processors. This enabler of software-defined GNSS led to the first space deployment of a fully software-defined GNSS receiver on a general-purpose digital signal processor and to the widespread adoption of software-defined GNSS across the aerospace industry.
His real-time software radio expertise also enabled the development of a spoofer cultivated in his research group. He led the development of spoofing detection algorithms based on cross-correlation of unknown P(Y) codes, or encrypted precise codes, and on direction-of-arrival sensing.
Psiaki was the lead signal processing designer and analyst for the iGPS program, which combined Iridium L-band downlink signals, GPS signals, and inertial navigation system data to enhance GPS anti-jam capabilities. Psiaki’s recent work on navigation based on low-Earth-orbit satellites fuses observables from an existing global communications constellation with inertial navigation systems and other sensor data to provide a backup to GPS.
Another contribution from Psiaki’s research demonstrates how Doppler-based navigation could replace pseudorange-based navigation if implemented using a large LEO constellation.
Psiaki has made many contributions to the practice of modeling, estimation, and detection applied to GNSS, including the study of GNSS carrier phase modeling for space-based applications. He led a campaign to decode Pseudo Random Number signals from the Galileo satellite known as GIOVE-A. It enabled Galileo receiver manufacturers to test their systems before the European Space Agency published the codes. His group’s work on ionospheric scintillations led to the first commercially-available scintillation simulators.
This year marks 30 years since the Institute of Navigation began presenting the Johannes Kepler Award. Reflecting on this stage of his career, Psiaki is looking forward to mentoring the next generation of engineers and researchers.
“Now is the time to elevate the younger people,” he said. “There was a time when I was starting out and making mistakes, and there were many people who encouraged and guided me to keep working. It’s my turn now to mentor and guide those just starting out in their careers.”
Psiaki is a past recipient of the Institute of Navigation’s Burka Award, its Tycho Brahe Award, and the Pride at Boeing Accomplishment Award. In 2020, he was awarded the Meir Hanin International Memorial Prize from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. He is a fellow of both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Institute of Navigation.