A year in the ice: the largest Arctic expedition ever uses NTLab’s board


The global problem is the heating of the Arctic, which occurs twice as fast as other regions of the world.

From 2040, climate researchers expect a largely ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer. Maritime traffic in this region has already increased significantly. As the polar ice continues to melt, it is foreseeable that new routes will emerge. In addition, the harsh environment and poor weather conditions make precise navigation all the more important for safe sailing.

Charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s atmosphere and cause scintillations in the ionosphere. This interferes with radio signals on their way from satellites to the planet’s surface. Navigation signals in particular can be influenced to such an extent that precise positioning is sometimes no longer possible. In order to develop effective countermeasures, such as correction algorithms for navigation systems, satellite data from the polar regions are required. These data are currently not available.

The mission is an unique opportunity to study ionospheric scintillation effects in polar regions.


In September 2019, the German research icebreaker Polarstern departed from Tromsø (Norway) and, once it had reached its destination, will spend this year drifting through the Arctic Ocean, trapped in the ice.

Before the Polarstern departed from Tromsø, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) installed a measurement system for receiving and storing raw signals from navigation satellites on board the icebreaker.

During the MOSAiC expedition, researchers from 19 countries will spend a whole year exploring the Arctic. For this purpose, the German icebreaker Polarstern will drift in the Arctic Ocean ice from autumn 2019 to autumn 2020.  In order to make this unique project a success and to collect as much valuable data as possible, more than 70 institutes will pool their resources in a research consortium. The expedition budget is approximately 140 million euro. MOSAiC will be the largest Arctic expedition ever.

Therefore, DLR built the setup shown below.

The setup consists of a professional GNSS receiver that continuously tracks satellite signals on multi frequencies. A processing software developed by DLR is running on a laptop and continuously analyzes the receiver output (pseudoranges and correlator output samples) in order to detect scintillation events. Whenever scintillation events are detected or a certain period of time expires, it starts to capture a 5 min record of frontend samples using NTLab’s streaming device EVK_USB3



The device is configured in multi-frequency mode (L1, G1, E5a, E5b). Based on the records captured right behind the antenna, later-on scientists have the possibility to study scintillation effects in detail and develop countermeasures even on signal tracking level. We received a very positive feedback from DLRNTLab’s USB3 streamer does a very good job in the arctic sea – it’s still alive and provides positive status mails regularly since the start of the campaign in September.

How the Arctic fox interferes with the expedition, read the blog of MOSAiC expedition  >>>https://follow.mosaic-expedition.org/