Speakers from Eurocontrol and the European Space Agency last month informed attendees at a meeting of the FAA’s Satellite Operational Implementation Team (SOIT) that their organizations would accept liability for system failures when the Galileo satnav system was used in critical applications requiring high-accuracy guidance, such as approach and landing operations.
Concerned about attempts by adversaries to jam global positioning satellite system signals–as occurred with only limited success during the recent Iraq conflict–the U.S. Air Force is moving ahead with plans to field a new-generation constellation of satellites, called GPS III. After a months-long logjam, the Air Force next month will begin accepting requests for proposals to develop and deploy the satellites sometime between 2010 and 2013.
In 1997 the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, which was charged with examining threats to our national security, recommended an assessment be made of the vulnerability of the U.S. transportation infrastructure if it had to rely on GPS.
The DOD’s Navstar GPS reached a new performance level this year, with 30 satellites in orbit versus its minimum required civil complement of 24. Four more satellites add signal coverage and reduce the number of occasional “holes,” or gaps where fix geometry can sometimes fall below navigation standards.
The U.S. Air Force last month reiterated its intention to choose a single contractor for a new constellation of global positioning satellites known as GPS III. Teams led by Lockheed Martin and Boeing are competing for the contract to launch eight Block A GPS III satellites by 2013. The Air Force invited bids last month for these first satellites, the foundation for an enhanced system scheduled to start operating in 2018.
A solar flare 10 times stronger than anything researchers had previously observed or predicted surprised scientists last December, not only because of its size and strength, but because of the effect it had on GPS receivers and other communications systems. Now scientists are looking at previous data and trying to understand how these flares affect satellite signals, in the hope that they can one day prevent further disruptions.
Boeing has formed an international industry team to compete for the contract to build and deploy the next generation of GPS satellites.
The Air Force plans to award the contract in early 2006 for the new GPS III satellites that will replace the ones currently in orbit and those scheduled for launch between now and when the GPS III satellites are ready.
GPS Satellite SVN-15 will celebrate its 16th birthday in space this month, and by next spring it will have circled the earth 12,000 times (roughly twice a day), continuously transmitting navigation signals to us. That’s amazing performance, especially considering that its original orbital life was expected to be 7.5 years.
Senior U.S. and international government and industry officials told specialists attending two meetings recently that by 2020 as many as 100 satellites could be radiating GPS-compatible navigation signals to air, sea and land users, with the overwhelming proportion of users being on land.
On December 28, the European Space Agency launched the first test satellite of its future Galileo navigation system. Three days earlier, Russia launched three satellites to join the previous 14 in its Glonass navigation network. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Defense officials expressed concern about whether GPS could remain competitive without major technology upgrades.
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