Laser target designators augment GPS with celestial navigation to enhance accuracy

APOPKA, Fla., 9 Jan. 2014. Laser targeting systems designers at Northrop Grumman Corp. needed celestial navigation capability to enhance the accuracy of the company's military surveillance equipment that helps infantrymen recognize and designate targets. They found their solution from Trex Enterprises Corp. in San Diego.

Executives at the Northrop Grumman Laser Systems segment in Apoka, Fla., have announced an agreement to collaborate with Trex Enterprises to apply celestial navigation subsystems for military products and scientific applications.

Related: Air Force funds design of better star tracker

This collaboration could combine one of mankind's most recent navigational technologies -- laser designators -- with celestial navigation -- one of the oldest known navigational methods.

Adding celestial navigation capability to target laser designators also could enhance accuracy if GPS-based satellite positioning systems were to be damage or otherwise incapacitated, or if signals from GPS satellites are being jammed, disrupted, or degraded.

Celestial navigation, first used by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and ancient Polynesians, enables mariners to sail far from land by following the known positions of the sun and stars. Spanish, Portuguese, and English sailors during the Age of Exploration used celestial navigation to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Europe to the New World. Magellan and Sir Francis Drake relied on celestial navigation in the 16th century as the first mariners to circumnavigate the globe.

Related: Tiny, rugged laser target designator for small UAV payloads introduced by Elop

Modern celestial navigation uses triangulation combining time, the sun, and the stars to determine one's position on the Earth. Navigators use a sextant to measure the angle of the sun or a star from the horizon at a known time. Even on modern naval warships it is common practice for the ship's navigator to take a noon sun sighting with a sextant to back up GPS measurements.

Northrop Grumman Laser Systems specializes in laser target designators that enable infantrymen, combat air controllers, and other specialists on the ground to detect, identify, and locate potential targets for attack aircraft and artillery. Laser designators precisely measure the distance from the laser to the target, and relay positioning information to bombers and artillery. Adding celestial navigation capability to target laser designators can enhance their accuracy.

Related: Trex Enterprises to help DARPA investigate new kinds of 3D electro-optical imaging sensors

Trex Enterprises applied for a U.S. patent in 2007 for a celestial compass, which includes a camera with a wide-angle lens suitable for viewing a large portion of the sky. The celestial compass has a multi-million-pixel sensor for collecting images of celestial objects such as stars, planets, the Moon, and sun.

The compass also includes a computer programmed with an astronomical algorithm for providing the precise position of celestial objects based on precise input of date and time of day, as well as the latitude and longitude of the celestial compass.

Related: Army, Northrop Grumman, BAE move forward on next-generation JETS infantry targeting system

The device also has celestial navigation and coordinate transformation software to correct distortion, convert pixel image data to astronomical coordinates, and determine the instrument's azimuth.

Over the last seven years experts from Trex Enterprises have matured this core celestial compass technology for providing an accurate celestial navigation subsystem for military products and scientific applications.

Northrop Grumman has completed formal qualification for its ground soldier targeting system with the celestial navigation technology and is delivering systems to support deployed warfighters.

Related: Northrop Grumman joins DARPA sensor-fusion program to reduce military reliance on GPS

"The synergy between Trex research and development expertise and Northrop Grumman engineering and production capability will surely increase and accelerate benefits to our soldiers," says Ken Tang, chairman and CEO of Trex Enterprises.

Trex Enterprises specializes in improving performance across the electromagnetic spectrum with technologies in microwave sensing, high resolution imaging, digital signal processing, applied optics, and materials.

Related: Nuclear ballistic missile command and control technology still a prime military concern

Northrop Grumman Laser Systems, meanwhile, has fielded thousands of portable, lightweight targeting and laser systems for ground troops and ground vehicles. These systems include ground-based man-portable, handheld and vehicle-mounted electro-optical imaging and ranging systems for target location; laser designators and markers for precise guidance of smart munitions; and airborne laser rangefinders and designators fielded onboard many of the sophisticated manned and unmanned aircraft.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Laser Systems online at, or Trex Enterprises at

Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:

  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

Optical Switches

Multiport (N x M) Optical Switches from large core, multimode and Plastic Optical Fiber (POF) for...

NVIS White Utility Light

Blue Wolf’s NVIS MIL-STD-3009 Utility Lights is specifically designed for easy handling and spot ...

XCalibur5090 | Dual Virtex-7 Based Digital Signal Processing 6U LRM FPGA with Quad 2500 MSPS DAC and 3200 MSPS ADC

The XCalibur5090 is a high-performance, reconfigurable, conduction-cooled 6U LRM module based on ...

Round Dome Light - NVIS

Blue Wolf’s NVIS MIL-STD-3009 Dome light is designed for cabin illumination or cargo areas. It ha...

NVIS White Post Light Cap Insert

Blue Wolf’s MIL-STD-3009 Post Light cap inserts are specifically designed for illuminating instru...

XPedite7574 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7574 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

Dual Mode NVIS 4 Inch Pod Light

Blue Wolf’s new DUAL Mode NVIS 4 inch pod lights is fully rotatable thru 320 degrees, can be fixe...

XCalibur1645 | Freescale Eight-Core P4080 Processor-Based Conduction-Cooled 6U VPX Module

The XCalibur1645 is a high-performance, 6U VPX, single board computer supporting Freescale QorIQ ...

NVIS Gooseneck Map Light

NVIS MIL-STD-3009 White Gooseneck Map Light. 0 to 100% brightness control. Tactile feedback and ...


Widely used for applications in the aerospace, electronic and OEM industries, Master Bond EP121CL...

Related Companies

Blue Wolf

Blue Wolf has been designing Night Vision (NVIS) LED lighting products for Government and Commercial vehicles since 2...

Fibersense & Signals Inc

Develops and manufactures fiberoptic, optoelectronic, photonic and laser-related products for aerospace command and c...

Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions

About Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions (CWDS) is a long established techno...


ISVI designs, produces and sells machine-vision camera systems combining high-speed and high-resolution sensors with ...

Opco Lab

For over 25 years, OPCO has been renowned for delivering on time and on budget quality optical components, thin film ...

Premier Polymers

Provides seamless epoxy flooring and industrial resinous coatings

CORWIL Technology Corp

CORWIL Technology, the premier US based, IC assembly and test services subcontractor, offering full back-end assembly...

Delphi Automotive PLC

Delphi provides military, aerospace and commercial connector products.

Master Bond

For over 35 years, Master Bond has been supplying aerospace and defense manufacturers with custom formulated compound...

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...


Harsh Environment Protection for Advanced Electronics and Components

This webinar will offer an opportunity to learn more about ultra-thin Parylene conformal coatings – how they are applied, applications they protect today, and the properties and benefits they offer, includin...

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Press Releases


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has received a contract from Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to supply its small form factor ...

Innovative Integration Announces the FMC-Servo

Camarillo, CA June 19, 2015, Innovative Integration, a trusted supplier of signal processing and data acquisition hardware and software solutions, today announced the FMC-S...


Curtiss-Wright Corporation today announced that its Defense Solutions division has further enhanced its innovative VRD1 high definition (HD) video management system (VMS) w...

All Access Sponsors

Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8

Download Our Apps




Follow Us On...


Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles