After 10 frustrating years of technical delays, escalating costs and contractor changes, the FAA’s GPS wide area augmentation system (WAAS) is approaching the level of performance the agency originally envisioned for it back in the late 1980s. With the system’s initial operational capability declared in 2003 and 18 months of satisfactory performance now behind them, WAAS advocates can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Global navigation satellite system
The French ministries of transport and defense have planned a global navigation satellite system (GNSS)/Loran C user information day on July 1 in Paris. “The information day is open to any person who has an activity related to the use of positioning or timing/synchronization information,” said the organizers. Focus will be on Loran C as a complement of GNSS.
China has disclosed that it intends to build a GPS-like global navigation system. Named Compass, the $2 billion system would have 30 satellites in medium earth orbits similar to the current GPS. Five additional satellites will provide WAAS-like and other functions, with a forecast 10-meter accuracy free to all users. Western experts predict likely operation between 2015 and 2020.
Boeing’s delivery in May of a 737-800 airliner certified for the global navigation satellite landing system (GLS) marked the culmination of a 10-year development effort. It also served as a reminder that the ground-based augmentation system (GBAS) still has a future, despite a U.S.
While it may be hard to believe that the global positioning system (GPS) is already more than a quarter century old, it may be equally difficult to imagine that by 2020 there will be more than 100 navigation satellites crisscrossing in outer space, high above us. Yet the first is true and, barring unforeseen eventualities, the second will also be true.
GPS Satellite SVN-15 will celebrate its 16th birthday in space this month, and by next spring it will have circled the earth 12,000 times (roughly twice a day), continuously transmitting navigation signals to us. That’s amazing performance, especially considering that its original orbital life was expected to be 7.5 years.
Senior U.S. and international government and industry officials told specialists attending two meetings recently that by 2020 as many as 100 satellites could be radiating GPS-compatible navigation signals to air, sea and land users, with the overwhelming proportion of users being on land.
They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows. So, it seems, does loran, which has recently been recognized by four quite disparate groups: the U.S. Congress, the government of France, the telecommunications industry and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). But in Washington, inter-agency budget struggles cloud further progress with the system.
The European Union (EU) has approved a joint bid from two groups that previously had competed against each other for the contract to run the $4 billion Galileo satellite navigation system.
On December 28, the European Space Agency launched the first test satellite of its future Galileo navigation system. Three days earlier, Russia launched three satellites to join the previous 14 in its Glonass navigation network. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Defense officials expressed concern about whether GPS could remain competitive without major technology upgrades.
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