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Handheld Celestial Navigation System


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Electronics, Sensors


The objective of this topic is to develop innovative approaches to celestial navigation in order to provide non-GPS (Global Positioning System) navigation capabilities to Soldiers on the ground.


Modern navigation systems are heavily reliant on communication with orbital satellites to maintain positional awareness and orientation (GPS, GNSS, GLONASS, etc.). Communication with these satellite constellations may be interrupted in a variety of situations such as intentional or unintentional radio frequency interference, signal attenuation due to local terrain, or malfunctions on the satellite. This topic seeks innovative research and development to provide feasible celestial-based navigation options, in a light weight, handheld form factor, to serve as an alternate when primary GPS systems are denied. Design considerations include:

  1. Minimize form factor (size, weight, and power) to maximize portability.
  2. Maximize compatibility with commonly used navigation visualization tools (cell phone, laptop, etc.)
  3. Minimize external power requirements; maximize use of common battery types.
  4. Maximize all-weather operations and ensure day/night usability.
  5. Maximize accuracy of internal clock, absolute location, velocity, elevation and heading determination.
  6. Maximize ability to navigate on the move, with low latency.
  7. Develop position solution requiring no GPS inputs.
  8. Require no specialized celestial navigation training (i.e. simple for common operator to use).
  9. Capable of developing solution without connection to network or cloud infrastructure.
  10. Minimize time from system startup to position acquisition (i.e. maximize system processing ability).
  11. Maximize ability to operate system from diverse land-based environments.


Conduct a feasibility study to assess what is in the art of the possible that addresses the design considerations included in the above paragraph entitled "Description". As a part of this feasibility study, the Offerors shall evaluate system concepts that provide a compact form factor "celestial navigator" to provide Special Operations Forces with a supplemental navigation mechanism capable of autonomously (or with minimal user input) determining absolute location by referencing celestial body positions.

Analysis shall also address performance attributes including:

  1. Notional Celestial Navigator directivity
  2. Notional Celestial Navigator accuracy
  3. Notional Celestial Navigator processing speed
  4. Notional Celestial Navigator compatibility with existing navigation architectures (Military Grid Reference System, Android Tactical Assault Kit plugin, etc.)
  5. Notional Celestial Navigator operational environments
  6. Notional Celestial Navigator update rate

The objective of this SOCOM Phase I SBIR effort is to conduct and document the results of a thorough feasibility study ("Technology Readiness Level 3") to investigate what is in the art of the possible within the given trade space that will satisfy a needed technology. The feasibility study should investigate all options that meet or exceed the minimum performance parameters specified in this write up. It should also address the risks and potential payoffs of the innovative technology options that are investigated and recommend the option that best achieves the objective of this technology pursuit. The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I SBIR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough feasibility study using scientific experiments and laboratory studies as necessary. Operational prototypes will not be developed with SOCOM SBIR funds during Phase I feasibility studies. Operational prototypes developed with other than SBIR funds that are provided at the end of Phase I feasibility studies will not be considered in deciding what firm(s) will be selected for Phase II.


Develop, install, and demonstrate a prototype system determined to be the most feasible solution during the Phase I feasibility.


This system could be used in a broad range of military applications. Additional applications include U.S. law enforcement, U.S. border patrol, and search and rescue of persons by U.S. first responders in local / state / or federal capacity.

KEYWORDS: Celestial, Navigation, GPS-Denied, Position, Timing, Automated, Handheld, Day/Night.


[2] Army Field Manual 3-25.26, Map Reading and Land Navigation, July 20, 2001:

[1] Full listing of Army Field Manuals:

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