Government Set to Upgrade GPS with New Satellite

by on October 15th, 2010
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It wasn’t that long ago that no one even knew what GPS was, much less what it might be good for. Now however, everyone knows that GPS satellites hovering over the Earth can help users do things like find their way in traffic or monitor their kids’ location. Things are about to get even better. Lockheed Martin, the company that makes the satellites has delivered a prototype for a new and better system to its Colorado test site this week. The official U.S. Government website dedicated to all things GPS, has announced that the new satellite will improve the GPS system in several ways.

The most prominent way the new satellite will change the GPS systems is in honing its accuracy. Currently, the best GPS devices can locate someone or something to within ten feet of where they actually are. The new system will cut that in third, to three feet, which for some people, is nearly arm’s length. One really nice thing about the new system is that current GPS devices in cars and on phones won’t have to be modified to take advantage of the new higher accuracy.

The new satellites will also emit a more powerful signal with extra error-checking built in, which should make everybody’s GPS devices not only more accurate, but more reliable.

Something else that will be really helpful, but probably not as noticeable will be the interchanging and trading of GPS data with other satellites not a part of the US system. This means that once all the kinks are worked out, a parent could, for example, track their child even in another country; something many parents would love when their kids go off on trips with other people.

Even less practical for most people, but really important to the military (which runs the GPS system) will be the increased accuracy of weapons systems that rely on GPS coordinates to know where to strike. In addition, because of the way data will be encoded on the new satellites, experts believe the signals will be much harder to jam, making them more reliable in times of war.

Government officials expect the first working model to be launched into space sometime next year with others to follow. Eventually there will be thirty two of them up there hovering diligently overhead, at which time they should go online. Regular civilians won’t get an announcement, all they will know is that their personal GPS devices suddenly seem to be even more accurate than before.

The new satellites have an expected fifteen year lifespan, so once they’re up, we should all expect the new status quo to remain in effect for the foreseeable future.

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