Feeds

Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov

Can the fanbois live without it?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The global positioning system (GPS) operated by the US government could fail as early as next year.

According to a report (PDF) by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), the independent and nonpartisan agency charged with keeping track of government efficiency (or lack thereof), "It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption."

The report cites the failure of the US Air Force to successfully complete the current GPS IIF satellite program, which has cost $870m (£550m) more than originally estimated and is now three years behind schedule. The first IIF satellite is now scheduled to be launched in November of this year. Hope it works.

Even more worrisome is the new GPS IIIA satellite program. According to the report, the Air Force told the GAO that it will complete this upgraded program three years faster than the IIF program - a schedule that the GAO kindly calls "optimistic".

If - when? - the IIIA program falls behind, the GAO cautions that "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."

In other words, not only will your iPhone not know where it is, but neither will your geotagging camera accurately insert location info into your photos' metadata, nor your car's navigation system help you find your way out of the morass of freeways that is Los Angeles.

And then there's the small matter of the US Army and Marines knowing where the hell they are as they trudge through Afghanistan's Helmand Province in search of poppy fields and Toyota-trucking terrorists.

Predator drones? Cruise missiles? Nighttime bombing runs? Fuggedaboutit.

The GAO - possibly the only US government agency known to not mince words - doesn't shift the blame to a few bad apples. "Of particular concern is leadership for GPS acquisition," the report pointedly points out, "as GAO and other studies have found the lack of a single point of authority for space programs and frequent turnover in program managers have hampered requirements setting, funding stability, and resource allocation."

In other words, failure starts at the top and trickles down.

The GAO recommends that the US secretary of defense "appoint a single authority to oversee the development of GPS, including space, ground control, and user equipment assets, to ensure these assets are synchronized and well executed, and potential disruptions are minimized."

If that doesn't happen, and you find yourself driving somewhere north of nowhere next year and your car's navigation system suddenly kicks the bucket, leaving you cluelessly lost, don't say the GAO didn't warn you. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.