Wednesday, May 20, 2009

United States GPS System Dead By 2010?

GPS Satellites FailingThe GPS, or Global Positioning System, used in America has become a vital tool in the lives of people all across the country. Paper maps have become outdated since the emergence of these electronic devices. Instead of unfolding this huge monster map and trying to decipher all the lines and markings on it to find your way you can simply type in the address on your GPS and presto! Everything is there for you in clear instructions and you even have a helpful little voice that tells you when and where to turn revolutionizing the way people travel.

But people today have become dependent on GPS devices, not only people, but the government and our military as well. We have been so comfortable using it that we fail to think about what would happen if we didn't have a GPS and we sometimes even struggle to remember what it was like before there was such a thing as a GPS. So what would happen if our national GPS system failed? What if we one day turned on our GPS and it didn't work?

Thanks to underinvestment and mismanagement by the U.S. Air Force, our National GPS system is at a high risk of failing, and sooner then we might think. Reports are in and it seems this problem could occur as soon as 2010, just under a year away!

"In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within the cost and schedule goals." in a statement from the Government Accountability Office(GAO) report. "If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood 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."

The failing of the GPS system impacts not only the millions of businesses and people that rely on the devices built into their boats, cars, and phones, but also impacts our military as well. The GA0 considers the GPS system "essential to national security." Being a nation with as many enemies as we do, a lapse in national security is definitley not something we need, especially with our current situation overseas in Iraq. Although America was the pioneer of the consumer satellite navigation system, we are not the only country with technology like this. India, China, and Russia all have their own systems which they are constantly expanding. A rival of the GPS, the Galileo System from the European Union is already expected to roll out sometime later this year.

The already delayed satellites and the looming threat of a failed GPS system would undoubtedly put the U.S. behind other nations in space advancement which, like most of us know, is something the U.S. Government and NASA won't accept.

The GAO report states that "Such a gap in capability could have wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users, though there are measures the Air Force and others can take to plan for and minimize these impacts." The first replacement satellite is said to launch this November, a mere three years late. If future launches are sped up, our problem of a failing GPS system could be solved, though speeding up the launch process would come at a high price.

How close we actually are to this happening is still not set in stone. The Air Force is likely to fix the problem before we have anything to worry about. Though this is potentially a major problem for the U.S. I don't think its anything to get too worked up about right now.


John Beagle said...

Wow! I can't believe GPS could fail in such a short period of time.

It would be like taking 5 giant steps backwards.

Scott said...

And the "President" insists on cutting the budget for Defense. Hope.