Most consumers never think about the GPS satellites that their directional devices use to determine their location. In fact, hardly anyone can state how many satellites there are, who owns them, and how long they have been in space. Yet, this lack of knowledge does not take away from the importance of these satellites. Recently, a leading company was awarded a contract to build another generation of Global Positioning System satellites.
More people than ever before own some sort of GPS device. In order to determine their location, these devices sense signals sent out from satellites orbiting in space. Based on the number of signals it detects and the position of each signal, the device is able to determine its own location. The system works remarkably well, but most users have noticed difficulties. Sometimes a device cannot get a signal, or the connection is quickly lost. These hiccups spur developers to continue to come up with newer, better systems.
The U.S. Air Force recently awarded Lockheed Martin Space Systems $120 million to build four more GPS satellites. These satellites are to be part of the new GPS III program, the next generation of GPS satellites. Lockheed Martin is already in the process of building the first four satellites for the program. The satellites are being assembled and tested in the company’s facility in Jefferson County, Colorado. Schriever Air Force Base in El Paso County is overseeing the project. There are reports that the Air Force plans to buy up to 32 of these satellites.
While these newer satellites will of course have enhanced military applications, the average consumer will also likely reap some benefits. An obvious benefit is simply the presence of more and newer GPS satellites in space. Another feature is these new satellites’ ability to communicate with other GPS satellites, even those from other countries. This communication allows users to pull signals from many additional satellites. Having more signals to draw from should result in faster, more reliable connections for GPS devices.
Although the production of these satellites is not cheap, and launching them into space will have an even higher cost, they come with a wide range of benefits. Our dependence on GPS technology requires us to continue to replace aging satellites and to develop even better GPS satellites that can provide consistent service for the future.