Once again I report on the status of the fine tuning and ever-developing GPS system which, unless you have been living under a rock, everyone is now aware of. Perhaps you might not be aware of the continued fine tuning of the system, but at least to the fact that GPS does exist. You will find it in boats, cars, planes, bicycles, four wheelers and just about anything else that moves from one place to another. It comes as fix mounted devices, handheld devices, computers and now even smartphones and tablet devices.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago my “techie” wife acquired a Galaxy Tab. It has a built-in GPS and access to Google maps. While testing it at the electronic store we looked up a restaurant we were interested in and found directions either by car, bus or foot. When we got home, it automatically knew we had changed location and the cursor showed where the device was currently. Even though its disclaimer reads “accurate within 6 meters,” I could swear the cursor was pointing directly in our living room window.
And…the accuracy keeps getting better. In my opinion it has always been more accurate than has been advertised but I think that is/was a ploy to keep the user more aware and perhaps encourage them to pay more attention.
However, as emphasised in every course on navigation, the prudent navigator should NOT rely on a single source of navigation information. There will come the time when (not if) your GPS will fail. If may be caused by electrical problems, dead batteries, or even more ominous, the military can shut it down or restrict access at any time. With that in mind you should seriously consider taking the Nautical Know How Navigation Course. This will take you through all the steps to learn to navigation the old fashion way. All you need is a chart and some simple navigation tools.
The 50th Space Wing at SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado has successfully completed a two-phase Global Positioning System constellation expansion known as “Expandable 24” yesterday June 15, 2011. This expansion increased global GPS coverage and is now providing civil, military and commercial GPS users with a more robust signal and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain challenged environments.
The GPS constellation consists of 24 operational slots positioned within six equally spaced orbital planes surrounding the earth. This plane/slot scheme and enhanced satellite placement ensure GPS users receive the most accurate navigation data at any time, at any place around the world.
Expandable 24 is a U.S. Strategic Command commander directed initiative, executed by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, to reposition six satellites in the current GPS constellation. Given the strength and number of satellites in the current constellation, Air Force Space Command was in a unique position to enact this revolutionary strategy to benefit global users. AFSPC acted on this opportunity to increase the robustness of satellite availability and overall signal in space performance by expanding three of the baseline 24 constellation slots.
Phase one of Expandable-24 began in January 2010 when 2 SOPS performed maneuvers to reposition three GPS satellites, one of which took 351 days to maneuver. The last of the satellites completed repositioning on 18 January 2011. Phase two began in August 2010 when 2 SOPS maneuvered the final three satellites to their new locations and completed today when the last satellite arrived at its new location.
“This marks another successful milestone in our continued commitment to modernize our weapon system,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander. “We take great pride in providing GPS performance that exceeds our requirements for the system, which we have been doing since 1995.”
“From the planning phases in the fall of 2009 to its completion today, 2 SOPS operators, engineers, analysts and support personnel have done an incredible job in making the Expandable 24 GPS initiative a reality,” said Maj. Benjamin Barbour, assistant director of operations. “It’s an exciting time to be a part of GPS. This is a huge milestone and everyone in the squadron is excited about the accomplishment and proud to have played a part in continuing GPS’s position as the ‘gold standard’ for global navigation space systems.”
The GPS constellation has now attained the most optimal geometry in its 42 year history, maximizing GPS coverage for all users worldwide.