Many countries have presented new requirements for in-orbit space services. Space autonomous rendezvous and docking technology could speed up the development of in-orbit spacecraft and reduce the threat of increasing amounts of space debris. The purpose of this paper is to provide real-time high-precision navigation data for high-orbit spacecraft, thus reducing the cost of ground monitoring for high-orbit spacecraft autonomous rendezvous operations, and to provide technical support for high-orbit spacecraft in-orbit services. This paper proposes a new high-orbit spacecraft autonomous navigation approach, based on a communication satellite transmitting ground navigation signals. It proposes an overall navigation system design, sets up the system information integration model and analyses the precision of the navigation system by simulation research. Through simulation of this navigation method, the positional precision of a spacecraft at an altitude of 40 000 km, can be within 2·6 m with a velocity precision of 0·0011 m/s. The transponding satellite navigation method greatly reduces the development costs by using communication satellites in high-orbit spacecraft navigation instead of launching special navigation satellites. Moreover, the signals of transponding satellite navigation are generated on the ground, which is very convenient and cost-effective for system maintenance. In addition, placing atomic clocks on the ground may also help improve the clock accuracy achieved. In this study, the satellite-based navigation method is for the first time applied in high-orbit spacecraft navigation. The study's data could improve the present lack of effective high-orbit spacecraft navigation methods and provide strong technical support for autonomous rendezvous and docking of high orbital spacecraft, as well as other application fields.