Cool New GPS Technology for Military and Civilian Mapping

New technology from the U.S. Air Force will launch a new generation of GPS satellites which are designed to be more secure, versatile and accurate than previous versions. Not all the features will be available immediately. Some aren’t expected until 2022 or later. The issue is problems in a companion program for the satellite’s ground control system.

Replacing Older GPS Satellites

Lockheed Martin is building 32 GPS III satellites to replace older models currently in orbit around the earth. GPS is commonly known for civilian applications, which include navigation and time-stamping financial transactions. An estimated 4 billion people worldwide use the GPS system.

However, GPS was developed by the U.S. military which continues to design, operates and launches the system. The U.S. Air Force operates a total of 31 GPS satellites from Schriever Air Force Base near Colorado Springs.

Upgrades included in the new GPS III satellites are a stronger military that’s tougher to jam. This is an improvement that became more critical after Norway accused Russia of interrupting GPS signals during a NATO military maneuvers last year.

Civilian GPS Improvements

The new GPS III technology will provide a new signal compatible with several other countries’ satellites including the European Union’s Galileo GPS system. That’s great for travelers because any GPS receiver such as that can interpret the new signal will have more satellites to get tracking from, making them more accurate. With GPS technology, the more satellites compatible with your phone, the more accurate the tracking it can give the user. The new GPS III satellites will provide location information three times as accurate as the satellites currently in use. Current GPS programs are accurate within 10 to 33 feet which depends on various conditions according to Glen Gibbons, the founder of Inside GNSS, a magazine that focuses on global navigation system satellites. The newer satellite version will provide accuracy within 3 to 10 feet under good conditions.

Jamming-Resistant Military GPS

Aspects of the jamming-resistant military signal won’t be available until a better ground control system is installed. This programming is expected by 2023 according to the Government Accountability Office. New civilian GPS tracking won’t be available at all until this programming is installed. One satellite was launched in December 2018 and another is waiting to be launched this summer.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.