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May 25, 2010

US Global Positioning System is Getting an $8 billion Upgrade

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The LA Times reports that the US Global Positioning System is getting an $8 billion upgrade.

The upgrade GPS will have accuracy to less than one meter. Typically unenhanced accuracy now is about 15 meters (50 feet).

Scientists and engineers — including those at a sprawling satellite-making factory in El Segundo — are developing an $8-billion GPS upgrade that will make the system more reliable, more widespread and much more accurate. The 24 satellites that make up the GPS constellation — many of them built at the former Rockwell plant in Seal Beach — will be replaced one by one. The first replacement was scheduled to be launched from Cape Canaveral this weekend. The overhaul will take a decade and is being overseen by engineers at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, where Parkinson and his team developed the current system.



Under the $8-billion upgrade, Boeing Co.'s Space and Intelligence Systems in El Segundo is building 12 satellites the size of sport-utility vehicles, and 18 others will be assembled by Lockheed Martin Corp. in Denver. Twenty-four will go into orbit and six will be reserved as spares.

The first phase is more than three years behind schedule, costing taxpayers about $1 billion. Much of the delay has been blamed on Air Force demands for new features, including the ability to upgrade the satellites' software while they are in space. The new satellites will also triple the amount of signals available for commercial use and will have atomic clocks that are even more precise — keeping time to a fraction of a billionth of a second.


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