GPS system could begin to fail within a year

U.S. federal watchdog blames mismanagement for potential failures

The Global Positioning System faces the possibility of failures and blackouts, a federal watchdog agency has warned the U.S. Congress. Mismanagement by and underinvestment by the U.S. Air Force places the GPS at risk of failure in 2010 and beyond. The problem: delays in launching replacement satellites, among other things.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, "In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals" as part of a US$2 billion modernization program.

"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."

Considered by the GAO to be "essential to national security" the GPS is also widely used by business and consumers and is a driver for next-generation location-based mobile applications used with smartphones and other devices.

"Such a gap in capability could have wide-ranging impacts on all GPS users," the GAO report states, "though there are measures the Air Force and others can take to plan for and minimize these impacts."

It is hard to imagine the U.S. government could allow this to happen. Actually, that's a lie, it's easy to imagine, but there is also time for corrective action to be taken. The first replacement satellite is expected to be launched this November, some three years after the original launch date. Speeding up future launches can solve the problem, but is likely to come at a high price.

The American GPS, though the pioneering consumer satnav system, is not alone. Russia, China, and India each have systems of their own, which are being expanded.

The European Union's Galileo system, intended as a rival for GPS, is expected to begin its rollout later this year.

The delay and potential failure of GPS gives these other nations the potential to rival the U.S. in space, something the U.S. government is unlikely to accept. The report is a black eye for the Air Force, which developed the GPS system during the 1990s and has maintained it since.

At last count, David Coursey owned more than a dozen GPS devices and expects his government to keep them working. He Tweets as dcoursey and can be reached using the email form at www.coursey.com/contact.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags GPSus congress

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

David Coursey

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?