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Could the System fail us by 2010?

gatorguy 326 Points
edited November -1 in GPS Discussions
A report today in GPS World highlights the dire straits facing the current GPS satellite system. As early as next year, the Air Force may no longer be able to maintain a constellation of 32 active satellites, with 8 in danger of imminent failure. A niminum of 24 must be maintained to assure sufficient positioning capabilities for ground based location. Some excerpts from the article follow:

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued on May 7 an alarming report on the future of GPS, characterizing ongoing modernization efforts as shaky. The agency appears to single out the IIF program as the weak link between current stability and ensured future capability, calling into doubt “whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption.” It asserts the very real possibility that “in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to.”

Prepared at the request of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs . . ." the report concludes that "it is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption. If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected.”

“In addition,” the report summary continues, “military users will experience a delay in utilizing new GPS capabilities, including improved resistance to jamming of GPS signals, because of poor synchronization of the acquisition and development of the satellites with the ground control and user equipment. Finally, there are challenges in ensuring civilian requirements for GPS can be met and that GPS is compatible with other new, potentially competing global space-based positioning, navigation, and timing systems."

Gloomy Outcomes. Based on the most recent satellite reliability and launch schedule data from March of this year, the estimated long-term probability of maintaining a constellation of at least 24 operational satellites falls below 95 percent during fiscal year 2010 and remains below 95 percent until the end of fiscal year 2014, at times falling to about 80 percent.

The results of fewer than 24 operational satellites could include:
Intercontinental commercial air carriers may have to delay, cancel, or reroute flights.
Enhanced-911 response to emergency calls could lose accuracy, particularly operating in urban and mountainous environments — exactly where emergencies tend to be most dire and hardest to locate.
Accuracy of precision-guided munitions could decrease, forcing the military to use larger munitions or use more munitions on the same target to achieve the same level of mission success, and increasing the risks of collateral damage. The urgent desire to decrease or eliminate collateral damage to civilians in or near conflict zones has often been cited by the founders of GPS as one of their key motivations in envisioning the program.
Both standard positioning service and precise positioning service could suffer, impacting large numbers of civil users, both professional (for example, surveyors) and casual (users of location-based services via cell phones) in moderately mountainous areas, in large cities, and under forest foliage.

The effects of satellite power loss over time, due to harsh space conditions, could be mitigated by shutting down satellite subsystems when not needed, reducing power consumption, also by shutting off a secondary (unnamed) GPS payload. DoD has long been reluctant to take either measure absolutely, particularly the second one, but according to testimony . . . has been implementing both practices on an intermittent basis.

. . . the Space Command maintains the required minimum of at least 24 GPS satellites in orbit, and the current level of 30 operational satellites, by keeping a “ghost fleet” of older, partially mission-capable satellites in backup mode. “Currently, three vehicles are held in residual status and are returned to the constellation every six months to ensure operational capability.” He stated that added life also is being squeezed from the satellites by reducing power to or turning off equipment for secondary missions aboard the satellites.


The essence of the report is that if current satellites cannot be maintained until new ones are in place and operational, then civilian use may be restricted to a single band rather than the more precise positioning that Pres. Clinton allowed civilian access to a few years back. Military needs will get priority. And this may start ocurring as early as next year. Just thought you ought to know.

Comments

  • dhn 336 Points
    Ain't you just a bundle of joy............. :cry: :x
  • JohnBoyToo 0 Points
    All about priorities....
    and "we the people" are not a priority :)

    Keeping guns out of civilians hands and the tea party terrorist are :lol:

    NOT that I supported this candidate, but was sent this article: http://www.ronpaulwarroom.com/?p=19916
  • caryrae 92 Points
    So will the Military and Airlines have to start using paper maps to navigate? :P
  • I would say the government is going to create another crisis so they have a reason to add a new tax. I do not see the transportation industry and the military without a GPS system.
  • lordgrinz 0 Points
    Whats a few billion more, right? 8)
    I would say the government is going to create another crisis so they have a reason to add a new tax. I do not see the transportation industry and the military without a GPS system.
  • I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a recurring subscription fee for civilian use implemented. Well, in addition to the "fee" we already pay in the form of taxes. :roll:

  • The essence of the report is that if current satellites cannot be maintained until new ones are in place and operational, then civilian use may be restricted to a single band rather than the more precise positioning that Pres. Clinton allowed civilian access to a few years back. Military needs will get priority.
    Now, this part, I don't get. The satellites just broadcast radio signals. It's not like internet bandwidth or as if each individual receiver "sucks up" signal strength. If anything, reintroducing selective availability places MORE demand on the system instead of providing a "one size fits all" service.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    Up until sometime in 2000, civilian positioning devices were limited to a GPS accuracy of 100 meters (in reality closer to 70 meters or so) due to a government policy of Selective Availability of satellite broadcast signals. In 2000, then President Clinton changed that policy, giving us common taxpayers access to two more signals and accuracy closer to 11 meters. Some channels are still reserved for Government/Military use only. The current sat constellation includes 6 "semi-retired", brought on-line only when necessary to fill the void from a sat down for maintenence. The problem is that these are limited in their capabilities, with some systems already failed. If current operating satellites cannot be kept to spec (and their are 8 that are one component from failure) and the retired sats become necessary, if signal broadcast capabilities are limited then the military gets first rights for those channels. If all current signals cannot be broadcast, civilian uses will suffer first.
  • Tim 1481 Points
    And it doesn't help when we can't get them into space...



  • caryrae 92 Points
    Man how much money went down the drain with that video?
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    Here's the really sad part. . . Lockheed was awarded the contract for replacement GPS satellites in 1989. Twenty years and four Presidents later and still a work in progress.
  • caryrae 92 Points
    Hope everything keeps working cause I don't know if I can use a map book or my wife to get me were I need to go anymore. :)
  • JIM C 0 Points
    So what is the average life span of one of the sattellites?
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Hmm... Garmin's "lifetime" maps may not be such a good deal after all. :lol:
  • lordgrinz 0 Points
    Yeah, and I'm betting paper USGS maps and compasses will be a boom market soon! :wink:
    Hmm... Garmin's "lifetime" maps may not be such a good deal after all. :lol:
  • JIM C 0 Points
    You know this is the same hype that we had in the 1990's about Y2K. :lol:
  • JohnBoyToo 0 Points
    off topic, but speaking for some of the old code I saw at a lot of LARGE companies when I was consulting back then...

    Y2K WAS a big deal except for a LOT of good work by a LOT of people :)
  • There is NO WAY they'd let GPS fail for civilian use. The ENTIRE world relies on it and not just the military. Airlines, shipping and trucking companies, the rail system, police/fire/EMS, surveyors, geologists, etc. The list goes on and on. As we've heard with other government "plans" recently... "It's too big to fail". :roll:
  • wscott52 0 Points
    There is NO WAY they'd let GPS fail for civilian use. The ENTIRE world relies on it and not just the military. Airlines, shipping and trucking companies, the rail system, police/fire/EMS, surveyors, geologists, etc. The list goes on and on. As we've heard with other government "plans" recently... "It's too big to fail". :roll:
    Barry is hostile to the US in general and the military in particular. I suspect he is okay with anything that will cripple one or both.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    There is NO WAY they'd let GPS fail for civilian use. The ENTIRE world relies on it and not just the military. Airlines, shipping and trucking companies, the rail system, police/fire/EMS, surveyors, geologists, etc. The list goes on and on. As we've heard with other government "plans" recently... "It's too big to fail". :roll:
    I'm sure everything possible would be done to avoid it. But note that the system was conceived and designed primarily for military use and is maintained by the AirForce/Dept. of Defense.

    Maybe AGPS will be our friend. And maybe not a good idea to cut out the Loran budget completely just yet, as O'Bama has proposed (and Bush too I think)
  • Tim 1481 Points
    Maybe AGPS will be our friend.
    AGPS still relies on traditional GPS. ;)
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    Dohhh!
  • Tim 1481 Points
    The GPS has a difficult road ahead, but I find that article to be sensationalized a bit. We've still got a working GPS satellite that was launched in November of 1990 if I recall correctly... it is nearly 20 years old. We've launched 24 in the past 15 years I believe.

    I think we would need a net loss of 11 satellites before we get down around the two dozen for the complete constellation, but we have been launching them at a rate of 1.6 per year.

    We've got one more scheduled for 2009. Looks like we've got 7 scheduled for 2010 and 3 for 2011.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    I don't think it's any more sensationalized than the Swine Flu is. :lol: :lol:

    Yes, the GAO report was considering worst case scenario, but I still did find it alarming that 8 of the current sats are so close to failure. The 6 held in reserve, which I think you're including in your figure (?) have various levels of useability according to the GAO report.
  • infama 0 Points
    Swine flu is a joke!

    Totally agree. Regular flu is a bigger problem.
  • greentube 0 Points
    The us.military is not gooing to let gps accuracy fall. Like artical states the us military does have priority and can retake bands or channles whatever they are called from civilian use the worse case scenario. The us will also not let civilian use fail either the european gps is completely compatible with gps and civilians will use those satalites.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    But our gps devices cannot (yet) use any signals from the very limited Galileo sat system, which won't be operational until 2013 (I think) and will require gps chipsets in our devices capable of receiving/using their unique frequencies and data types.
  • Shooter 0 Points
    Considering that our National Airspace System (NAS) is moving more and more towards GPS-based navigation, I seriously doubt the future of GPS availability is in question. It is not just that GPS-based navigation is convenient, the FAA is doing away with the legacy systems.

    Go to faa.gov and type "GPS" in the search window, you will find numerous links showing the many areas in the NAS that are moving to GPS.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    No, and the article doesn't question the long-term GPS plans. But there is a window of about three years where there is some danger of the current availability becoming limited.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    From today. From Professional OEM Newsletter (GPSWorld).

    Withheld from the public for two years, since its completion in March 2007, the Independent Assessment Team (IAT) report has been let out of detention, just in time to counter recent efforts by the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Coast Guard to throttle the program. The IAT “unanimously recommends that the U.S. government complete the eLoran upgrade and commit to eLoran as the national backup to GPS for 20 years." The IAT’s conclusion has long been informally known throughout the GPS industry, but the report’s release adds considerable weight, expertise, and specifics to a long, determined campaign to preserve the program.

    Compiled by the Institute for Defense Analyses, the IAT report has been held back from public release since March 20, 2007, when it was completed and presented to the co-sponsoring Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Executive Committees. Its release now comes only after an extensive Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) battle waged by industry representatives against the federal government.

    The report asserts that "eLoran is the only cost-effective backup for national needs; it is completely interoperable with and independent of GPS, with different propagation and failure mechanisms. . . . It is a seamless backup, and its use will deter threats to U.S. national and economic security by disrupting (jamming) GPS reception."

    The IAT, chaired by Bradford Parkinson, founding program director for GPS, and assisted by other industry experts, evaluated all available or potential alternatives for a GPS backup. In particular, it examined the costs of the Loran system and a transition to a new, modernized enhanced or “eLoran.” It found eLoran’s infrastructure enhancements to be 70 percent complete, and the cost to complete its rollout less expensive than decommissioning the Loran system.

    The two-year-old report finally arrives in public view, staking out direct opposition to recent comments made by the DHS that Loran termination will save $190 million over five years. Such claims failed to specify or include the decommissioning costs, or explore the operational savings available with modern eLoran transmitters. Senior DHS representatives have — unbelievably, but yes, it is true — claimed recently that it is not clear a GPS backup is needed, and have taken the time-honored route of recommending additional study.

    The IAT report concludes that “eLoran be completed and retained as the national backup system for critical safety of life, national and economic security, and quality of life applications currently reliant on position, time, and/or frequency from GPS." Its authors emphasize that "the U.S. government policy decision is needed to motivate users to equip."


    As I mentioned earlier in the thread, it's hard to believe the Obama administration still insists on decommissioning eLoran. Even if the launch schedules can be maintained, and the navigation sat constellation remains viable, GPS signal jamming is still too easy to do and leaves us exposed to less than friendly people, groups or countries. eLoran is the only reliable alternative we have.
  • Spyder63 331 Points
    Never mind......the forum was May 20th - but a transcript can be read at http://ow.ly/8bps

    --------------------------------------------------
    The U.S. Air Force Space Command’s subject-matter expert on the GPS program will Twitter on the command’s site, www.twitter.com/AFSpace, from 2 to 3 p.m. MT, in response to the recent Government Accountability Office report on the GPS program.

    Col. Dave Buckman, AFSPC Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Command Lead, will also answer questions (tweets) on the GPS system. Participants are encouraged to use #AFGPS to track the conversation.

    Alan Cameron, GPS World editor-in-chief, was interviewed by CNN Tuesday about the GAO report on GPS, following publication of his article GPS at Risk: Doomsday 2010. The full report can be viewed here.

    "The U.S Air Force and Air Force Space Command have been the diligent stewards of GPS since its conception in the 1970s and continue its commitment to this critical component of our National Infrastructure," reads an Air Force Space Command press release. "The current GPS constellation has the most satellites and the greatest capability ever. We are committed to maintaining at least our current level of service, while striving to improve service and capability through on-going modernization efforts. The Air Force will continue to pursue an achievable path maintaining GPS as the premier provider of positioning, navigation and timing for the military and civilian users around the world."
  • markan 0 Points
    Should civilian GPS users be taxed to help finance the GPS constellation?

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/05/tax-gps-to-save-gps/
    There’s news bubbling up about a potential crisis in our GPS systems. According to a new GAO report, a bunch of the satellites up there guiding our cars, geo-shagging applications, and soldiers might go kaput soon. If they fall, the report implies, the sky falls.

    For starters, how big a crisis is this? Not so bad. We really only need 24 satellites working in order to have assured accuracy, and there are 31 operational in the current constellation, with more launches planned. The odds of seven or more failing before replacements get into orbit is rather low. The satellites may be reaching the end of their expected lifespans, but military equipment often lasts much longer than its expected lifespan.

    But in any case here’s one thought-experiment for our budget-constrained times: what if the federal government taxed all civilian providers of GPS gear? If you build a device that pulls information from these satellites that Uncle Sam put up, you pay money to Uncle Sam. (Monitoring use would be hard, which is why it would be better to tax devices.)

    Revenues could then be dumped into programs to build replacements or to keep funding for Loran, the ground-based system that backs up GPS that Obama has considered cutting. Right now, GPS information beemed down from our satellites is a massive government giveaway. In a time of massive deficits, is it crazy to consider changing that?
  • Boyd 1985 Points
    Saw that one coming.... when you can't think of anything else.... tax it! :roll:
  • Tim 1481 Points
    How would that be done internationally? (Maybe there is a way... just asking.) Would a GPS sale in China or Germany for example really flow dollars back to Uncle Sam? Seems unlikely you would actually tax those using the system since people all over the world utilize it.
  • markan 0 Points
    They make a good point though. The US gives away the service for free and Garmin etc. profit from it.
  • How would that be done internationally? (Maybe there is a way... just asking.) Would a GPS sale in China or Germany for example really flow dollars back to Uncle Sam? Seems unlikely you would actually tax those using the system since people all over the world utilize it.
    Tim this story is known as posturing in the Military-Industrial Complex newspeak...:)

    This is a push to increase or at least guarantee NO CUTS in their future budgets under an administration which has been identified as sort-of anti-military... :roll:

    Here is a followup story...
    http://www.navigadget.com/index.php/2009/05/24/whats-up-with-gps-satellites-doomed-news

    Recommendation: Because of the criticality of the GPS system and potential delays, and given the importance of GPS to the civil community, the Secretary of Defense should appoint a single authority to oversee the development of the GPS system, including DOD space, ground control, and user equipment assets, to ensure that the program is well executed and resourced and that potential disruptions are minimized. The appointee should have authority to ensure DOD space, ground control, and user equipment are synchronized to the maximum extent practicable; and coordinate with the existing positioning, navigation, and timing infrastructure to assess and minimize potential service disruptions should the satellite constellation decrease in size for an extended period of time.

    This sure sounds like they are going to ask for an increase in their budget...:roll:

    Paul in VT
  • florida99 0 Points
    Wonder if Congress will use some of that STIMULUS MONEY to buy new satellites. Just think how many jobs they could claim they have saved or created by doing so. :lol: :lol: :lol:
  • infama 0 Points
    They make a good point though. The US gives away the service for free and Garmin etc. profit from it.
    So who compensates me for being irradiated with Satellite emissions? Like I had any say in the matter. How does a luddite object to increasing electronic emissions pollution?
  • Tim 1481 Points
    Nice article I caught this morning:

    Comments on the “GPS is Failing Hype”

    image
  • markan 0 Points
    They make a good point though. The US gives away the service for free and Garmin etc. profit from it.


    So who compensates me for being irradiated with Satellite emissions? Like I had any say in the matter. How does a luddite object to increasing electronic emissions pollution?
    I don't how you can go about objecting. Maybe the FCC. But you CAN protect yourself.

    http://www.ehow.com/how_2049858_make-tinfoil-hat.html
  • KattKatt 0 Points
    Or build a Faraday cage, grab your solid state electronics and get in it. You will also be protected from a nuclear EMP burst. lol
  • Or build a Faraday cage, grab your solid state electronics and get in it. You will also be protected from a nuclear EMP burst. :lol:
    It also protects you from falling space debris...:D
    http://img.villagephotos.com/p/2004-12/903959/the_optimist.jpg
  • Tim 1481 Points
    It is 2010, GPS still works, and will continue to get better according to a new report.
  • gatorguy 326 Points
    There's white frozen stuff falling here (Central Florida). Could that be space debris from falling satellites?
  • Tim 1481 Points
    It could be-- but I don't think so. :)
  • If you've watched "3rd Rock from the Sun" often in the past, you'd know, as everyone now knows in the great-white-north, that it's Albino Brain-Chiggers. The 3rd-Rock family had seen it happen before on other planets. They were certain that it was the beginning of end for this planet too. All the signs were there, no cars or people on the streets, the whole town shut down, people going crazy (the 3rd Rock gang going the most crazy), etc.

    I was already snowed in for 2 months the winter they aired that episode. Cabin-fever was getting pretty thick. I never laughed so hard in my life as when that episode came on. Was rolling on the floor even. To think, all these winters that when that stir-crazy mentality seeps in, it's been caused by Albino Brain-Chiggers.

    It finally all made sense.


    Oh, and about GPS going down, uh huh, sure. Like all businesses and government projects today, ... if they don't get money they'll hold their breath until they turn blue. Then when they get their bailout, the CEOs who were awarded the contracts will pocket about 70%-95% of it. Been there, seen that. Yawn ...

    :D

    p.s. It's not just GPS device providers that make a buck off of government projects (paid for by you and I). Where do you think the infrastructure of the internet came from in the beginning and was taken over by corporations. Do you also know how many planetarium software authors and companies make it nearly impossible to provide displays from their software to the public for free, not even being able to use print-outs from it on free hand-outs. All claiming copyright infringement if you do. But every last bit of the star-catalog data that they depend upon, and their software would be worthless without, came from government projects that we all already paid for. This is no different.

    Like turtles, it's scams, all the way on down.
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