Future of the Global Positioning System (GPS)

There’s an interesting read from the Congressional Budget Office (USA) on cost estimates for the next generation GPS system.  This is particularly of interest now due to reports that Iran may have jammed the captured US drone’s GPS receiver in order to prevent it from returning “home”.

What is GPS?

The GPS uses a constellation of at least 24 satellites, each of which transmits precise data on the time and its location. Receivers—both military and civilian—use the data transmitted by the satellites to calculate their own position; information from a minimum of 4 satellites is required to determine a position accurately in three dimensions.

Solutions for next generation GPS:

As the Department of Defense’s satellites reach the end of their service lives, the department plans to replace them with ones that can counter deliberate interference by generating stronger signals. Analysis —namely, improving military receivers to retain the GPS signal even in the presence of such jamming—would be less expensive than DoD’s plan for upgrading its constellation of GPS satellites. Furthermore, the alternative would yield benefits almost a decade earlier than DoD’s plan. However, the improvements to military receivers could make them larger and heavier (and thereby less useful to personnel operating on foot) until they could incorporate the substantial gains that have been achieved in miniaturization in other applications.

  • Option 1 would improve current military GPS receivers by fitting them with better antennas and by adding inertial navigation systems.
  • Option 2 would capitalize on a DoD research and development program by enabling current GPS receivers to integrate information received via the Iridium commercial communications satellite network.
  • Option 3 would include the improvements of both Option 1 and Option 2.

Read the complete article here.

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