Testifying before Congress in May, Stanford University professor Brad Parkinson–the chief architect of GPS and the original GPS program manager before his retirement from the USAF–echoed the concern of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that there will be insufficient backup satellites to fill gaps in the constellation before the DOD’s forecast 2014 launches of its next-generation GPS III units. (see AIN, June, page one.)
The DOT Volpe Center’s September 10 report on the vulnerability of GPS to jamming and other interference, in addition to the events of the following day, have greatly heightened national concerns about the security of the satellite system and the degree of dependence that should be placed on it as the backbone of our future ATC system.
Navstar, the official U.S. Air Force program moniker for the constellation of satellites most of us refer to simply as GPS, has undergone a multitude of technical changes and upgrades in the nearly 30 years since a group of military and civil engineers first sat down in the Pentagon to talk about the far-reaching precision navigation concept.
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.
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.