GPS III: How the Global Positioning System’s subsequent generation of satellites are being developed – CBS News
Thanks to GPS, your car, your phone, even your watch knows exactly where you are on the planet, by listening to a satellite signal from 12,000 miles over your head. GPS is always on, you don't pay anything to use it, and you never need to know how it works.But don't you kind of wonder?The…

Thanks to GPS, your automobile, your phone, even your glimpse knows precisely where you is liable to be on this planet, by paying consideration to a satellite tv for pc signal from 12,000 miles over your head. GPS is continually on, you don’t pay anything to utilize it, and you by no scheme must know the device in which it works.

But don’t you more or less surprise?

The U.S. Air Force runs the American Global Positioning System. “We’re very gay with it. We revel in offering that utility to the planet, on behalf of the United States Air Force, without cost!” laughed Brigadier Total DeAnna Burt, who oversees GPS as the director of operations at Air Force Space Thunder at Peterson Air Force Excessive in Colorado Springs.

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Rendering of a GPS III satellite tv for pc in orbit.

Lockheed Martin

Whereas man y of us deem of GPS as “that navigation component on my phone,” it is distinguished more: “Mediate about your ATMs, at the gas pump, the Novel York Stock Alternate, the web, your vitality grids – they desire a timing same old, to hyperlink it up all the device via the enviornment,” acknowledged Gen. Burt.

The GPS system deploys a constellation of 31 satellites, each and each beaming a one-capacity radio signal in direction of Earth. “These alerts are being broadcast consistently,” acknowledged Gen. Burt. “And ought to you are in glimpse of that satellite tv for pc, your receiver will purchase the four easiest satellites in glimpse. You wish one at as soon as overhead and three on the horizon – that offers you doubtlessly the most piquant space.”

Definitely, these serious satellites don’t hover themselves. At Schriever Air Force Excessive in Colorado Springs, a crew of young technicians mans the GPS Master Withhold a watch on Attach 24 hours a day, watching over the satellites. The commands they ship can adjust the satellites’ positions or test their effectively being.

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Technicians computer screen satellites at the GPS Master Withhold a watch on Attach, at Schriever Air Force Excessive in Colorado Springs, Colo.

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Correspondent David Pogue asked, “Is there ever grief?”

“I was on accountability as a crew commander a pair of years within the past,” acknowledged the operations flight commander, Captain Josh Harnish, “after we had a satellite tv for pc and it became out that the satellite tv for pc’s antenna was correct animated broken.”

“Carry out you might maybe well desire a spare?”

“We even contain about four on-orbit spares, because you cannot correct ship a fix-it man up to position,” Captain Harnish acknowledged.

The oldest entertaining GPS satellite tv for pc is about 26 years aged now – older than a couple of of the technicians controlling them. The operators, he acknowledged, “battle via a if truth be told rigorous coaching program, and then any time we confer with the satellites, two of us contain to essentially arrangement and approve what’s going to that satellite tv for pc.”

“So, one particular person couldn’t toddle rogue?”

“That is correct. There’s rarely any self-destruct advise, let’s correct effect that to leisure!”

Or now no longer it’s fantastic to know that such an incredibly well-known system is in correct hands, and absolutely, positively precise. Succesful?

When Pogue asked if there were a style an enemy of our nation might maybe well maybe cling out your whole system, Dana Goward, president of the Resilient Navigation Timing Foundation (a community devoted to protecting GPS), answered, “Oh, absolutely. They generally wouldn’t necessarily contain to assault the satellites. Or now no longer it’s distinguished less complicated to assault the alerts. GPS is so constructed-in into all of our systems that any essential disruption might maybe well maybe be catastrophic, nearly an existential threat.”

At the U.S. Naval Observatory, a master clock synchronizes the GPS satellites’ clocks.

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Initially, the GPS community was developed for one major buyer: the U.S. military, whose need for battlefield coordination was crucial: “The mandate was to position 5 bombs within the same hole,” Goward acknowledged. “About ten years after GPS was deployed, some of us within the military were astonished to uncover that it was being feeble by civilians the least bit.”

The GPS system as we now understand it became operational in 1995. “Today, handiest a diminutive fraction of of us who use GPS contain anything to quit with the military,” Goward acknowledged. “Mostly, it is the underpinnings of our networked, technological world.”

But how susceptible is the system?

Pogue asked, “So, as soon as you happen to and I were writing a screenplay about North Korean contaminated guys, would it now no longer be believable to mediate a scenario where as well they can bring down your whole system?”

“Certain, it might maybe well maybe maybe well maybe happen,” Goward acknowledged. “A suitcase-dimension GPS jammer, as an illustration, might maybe well contain a broad affect on a essential metropolitan effect, particularly if it was located on an aerial platform.”

Jamming scheme drowning out the GPS signal here on Earth. While you happen to are an depraved-doer, you build now no longer must invent some pricey rocket to explode our satellites; you might maybe well correct broadcast so distinguished radio gibberish that halt by receivers cannot hear the satellites.

Total Burt says she’s effectively responsive to the threat. The 2 major considerations she has are jamming and cyber intrusion. And to fight against these threats, the subsequent generation of satellites, GPS III, are being constructed and deployed. “GPS III can be three times more suitable, and contain eight times more jam resistance,” she acknowledged.

GPS III satellites are being constructed by Lockheed Martin. Pogue – fragment of the first community digicam crew ever allowed inner the Lockheed Martin manufacturing facility – donned protecting garb to enter the ability’s clear room, where air is changed out as a minimal 10 times per hour.

Even a speck of mud might maybe well maybe hurt the satellite tv for pc as soon because it’s in effect. “Mediate about a fleck of foil that can be attached to your attire, and it gets into the spacecraft? [It] might maybe well maybe if truth be told quick out a couple of of our electronics,” acknowledged Tonya Ladwig, who’s responsible of the GPS III program at Lockheed.

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David Pogue with Lockheed Martin’s Tonya Ladwig, with almost definitely the most GPS III satellites under construction.

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Two of the new GPS III satellites are already in effect; the subsequent six are in this room, in varied phases of construction. Every body is constructed by hand, and takes 18 months to whole.

“So, this time subsequent year, my phone can be talking to this?” acknowledged Pogue.

“Certain, your phone can be talking to this satellite tv for pc,” Ladwig answered.

“That is totally freaky!”

By 2034, our whole constellation of GPS satellites can be GPS III devices, which are more trusty against jamming and cyberattacks.

Even so, GPS watchdog Dana Goward would bask in to arrangement a backup system on the bottom, too. “Customers will essentially be bulletproof to any kinds of disruption within the event that they are using each and each systems,” he acknowledged, calling the bottom-based totally mostly system complementary.

In the length in-between, Brigadier Total DeAnna Burt says she intends to preserve correct on demanding about protecting our GPS.

“My job is to be definite that you build now no longer must fear,” she laughed. “But I quit deem we ought to be wide awake, as a nation, that there are threats, and there are of us desirous to threaten our each day life. And we ought to be ready when they reach.”


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Memoir produced by Amol Mhatre.

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