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Out in Front: Epic Fail

July 1, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

Sometimes the patient has to get sick in order to get better. The eruption of a malady leads to identification of an underlying condition; appropriate treatment can then be devised to cure the body of its ills. Sound like House, M.D.?

As a variant on this plot line, the patient can know full well what is wrong deep down inside, but refuses to acknowledge or deal with it. As in, “I’ll stop smoking when I start coughing,” or “My drinking hasn’t gotten to the problem stage . . . yet.”

Let us examine the patient GNSS. The April signal outage, system-wide on the GLONASS constellation, lasted less than 12 hours. That was long enough to cause consternation for end users around the world, and for several voices to renew their calls for multi-constellation GNSS and alternative PNT. The interruption was also short enough that it has now vanished from most rear-view mirrors. Everything is back to normal and everyone can go about their business.

But the patient is still unhealthy, and vulnerable.

It is easy enough to fault the system operators, who after all are only human, and to say, “That can’t happen here. We have enough safeguards in place. And our guys and gals are just that good.” In other words, we take enough antibiotics and are generally, you know, well, healthy. As healthy as anyone else.

We have yet to see a full-scale jamming or spoofing attack on the order of cyber-security breaches in other targeted areas that have made off with millions or billions of dollars.

We have yet to experience a truly major-league Sun event, when global circumstances would be in dire need of PNT help just when GNSS was least helpful.

We have yet to encounter some other unknown, unexpected event or environment that will reveal in painful detail the vulnerabilities of GNSS.

Which are well known to us at this writing.

This month’s cover story on a new enhanced differential Loran technique represents one arm of geospatial-medical research. Notably, it evinces little concern for GLONASS, the area where the latest malady erupted. No, the Dutch harbor pilots are concerned about over-reliance on GPS, the Gold Standard. The Gold Standard! What could possibly be wrong with the Gold Standard? After all, it’s golden.

GPS III Misses Delivery Date. The U.S. Air Force is shopping for alternative companies to make future GPS III satellites after the first eight birds come through. Current contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems missed a 2014 delivery date because, although it has three satellites in the production barn and a satellite test-bed vehicle that has successfully passed system tests, it has received no payload from subcontractor Exelis to put aboard same.

Delivery of the first GPS III satellite is now expected to slip from fiscal 2014 as far as fiscal 2016. Then there’s launch to consider, which brings to mind the launch budget and schedule, annually trimmed back by Congress. Then there’s OCX, needed to operate GPS III, also struggling to stand up.

Even once established, GPS III will share the same vulnerabilities of current GNSS.

The doctor looks worried.

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in From the Magazine, Opinions

About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.