October 09, 2007

Because you can

GPS devices are both cool and useful. You know what's even more cool? Building your own GPS device from scratch. Excerpt:

The block diagram of the described GPS receiver is shown on Fig. 13. In the microwave frequency range, at L-band, the antenna needs a direct visibility of the satellites. Therefore it has to be installed outdoor, on the vehicle roof or on top of a portable receiver. Due to its excellent performance, a half-turn quadrifilar helix is used as a circularly polarized, hemispherical-coverage antenna. The LNA is installed directly under the antenna. Using two inexpensive GaAs FETs it achieves 30dB of gain making any following (reasonable) cable loss almost unimportant.

Circuit diagram image.

The GPS receiver includes a fixed-tuned downconverter to a suitable IF, an IF amplifier and limiter, a dedicated DSP hardware, a MC68010 based microcomputer with a small keyboard and a LCD display and a single master crystal oscillator for all frequency conversions and sampling rates. The downconversion from the GPS L1 frequency (1575.42MHz) is made in two steps for convenient image filtering. The first wide IF is in the 102MHz range and the second wide IF is in the 10MHz range. The wide IF bandwidth is set to around 2MHz. The actual value of the wide IF bandwidth is not critical, since filtering is only required to prevent spectrum aliasing in the signal sampling circuit.

6139kHz was selected as master crystal oscillator frequency of the described GPS receiver, since the best TCXOs are usually available for the frequency range between 5MHz and 10MHz. The output of the 6139kHz master oscillator is used both as the sampling frequency for the IF A/D conversion and as an input to a chain of multiplier stages to supply all of the frequencies required in the downconverter. Limiting the temperature range from 0 to 30 degrees C, as encountered during normal receiver operation, the TCXO was replaced by a much less expensive conventional crystal oscillator in all of the prototypes built.

Sampling the 10MHz wide-IF signal with 6139kHz produces a third downconversion to a 2303kHz nominal center frequency. The latter is the final carrier frequency that needs to be regenerated in the dedicated DSP hardware. The dedicated DSP hardware is designed as a microprocessor peripheral with read and write registers and is interrupting the MC68010 CPU once every millisecond to match the GPS C/A-code period.

In the portable, stand-alone GPS receiver, the operating software is stored in a compressed form in a 32kbytes EPROM. After power-on reset, the software is decompressed in 128kbytes of battery-backed CMOS RAM, which is also used to store the system almanac and other data to speed-up the acquisition of four valid satellites. For the same reason the CPU also has access to a small battery-backed real-time clock chip.

A small 8-key keyboard is used to select the various menus of the operating software and manually set some receiver parameters if so desired. The portable version of the GPS receiver is using a LCD module with integrated driving electronics and two rows of 40 alphanumeric (ASCII) characters each, to display the receiver status, the almanac data or the results of the navigation computations.

There's a lot more at the article. Go there now.

Posted by Physics Geek at October 9, 2007 01:40 PM | TrackBack StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

If I wait long enough, Hillary Clinton will promise a free one for every family.

Posted by: Woody at October 9, 2007 06:20 PM