Could we live without GPS on a daily basis? Probably not. It has become a staple in our daily lives, whether we are traveling with our families or for business, keeping track of our property, or even assuring our food arrives safely and fresh to the grocery store. The big names in the GPS industry know that people love GPS for a host of reasons, but are aware that at some point, Congress may decide to slash key programs for GPS modernization.
To address this concern, Lockheed Martin, ITT Exelis, Raytheon, Honeywell, and General Dynamics – all big names in the GPS industry – hosted Global Positioning System Modernization Day on the Hill on May 31 at the Rayburn House Office Building Foyer. GPS suppliers, like all defense contractors, are concerned the state of our economy may bring about budget cuts, especially to the new GPS III program. “Across the board, every program is being scrutinized,” according to Michael Friedman, spokesman for Lockheed Martin. He said this event is “an opportunity to show the importance of GPS and the great progress that we’re making.”
As we’ve reported in the past, Lockheed was named the contractor and manufacturer of GPS III satellites back in 2008. The first two of the 32 proposed satellites will be launched in 2014 and 2015, respectively. The goal is to replace each and every satellite in the current constellation with new GPS III satellites. Those in the GPS industry say it isn’t just replacing the old satellites because they are aging, but also because these new GPS III satellites are far more secure, protecting against jamming.
Friedman states that interference is increasingly becoming a problem with the current GPS II satellites, especially seeing as jamming devices are cheap and easy to procure. As an example, a Newark, NJ trucker was recently caught using one of these jamming devices so his employer could not pinpoint his location. Consequently, the use of this device led to the crash of the GPS landing system at Newark International Airport. These GPS jammers scramble or block signals from the GPS satellites, and a GPS spoofer deceives GPS receivers. The new GPS III satellites, according to those in the GPS industry, are much harder to mess with.
Raytheon spokesman Jared B. Adams agrees that the GPS constellation “is an expensive program but also a very worthwhile program for military and commercial interests. We want to harden assets so spoofing and jamming don’t take place in the future.” Raytheon was awarded the GPS III ground control equipment contract in 2010, worth about $2.5 billion.