GPS Reduced Accuracy / Outages 2010-2016
I saw a news report titled "Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov
Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov â€¢ The Register
It's based on a US government report, which can be found here:
Having read the report, the title and content of the 'news' report is alarmist. The facts presented in the US gov report show that there is some risk that a full set of 24 GPS satellites will not be able to be maintained from 2010-2016, due to late delivery of replacement satellites.
To be able to understand what will happen if there are only 23 satellites, we need to think about what kind of a gap this creates. Each satellite takes 11h58m to orbit, following the same path day in, day out. It has three other satellites following it on the same orbit. So there are 4 satellites equidistantly spaced on the same orbit (or sometimes more than 4 if there are more than 24 GPS satellites in operation). This is then duplicated to give 6 sets of these 4 satellites orbiting on 6 paths around the world.
So if one of the 24 fails, and is approaching your location, there will be a 2hr59.5m delay until the following active GPS satellite on the same orbit appears (albeit this is actually a little more complex due to the rotation of the earth). Whilst you're waiting you are will experience a comparative drop in GPS accuracy. This will happen twice a day and may result in difficulty in obtaining an initial fix when you 1st turn on, or dropping down to a 2D fix, (ISTR location accuracy being about 1.5km in this case). However, unless you haven't got a good view of the sky- I.E. you're in a city (urban canyon) or hilly terrain (genuine canyon), you're unlikely to notice these degredations.
As usual, out in the wilds you should have maps and compass anyway. This is a good reminder to pack them. Bear in mind it's still failure of your own GPS receiver that is the biggest risk to your ability to use GPS.
So, in summary, GPS accuracy may be reduced if enough satellites fail, which could result in traffic jams in cities, because all of a sudden sat-navs are lost and car drivers don't carry maps any more. It could also be a little more tricky finding that cached jerry can of fuel in featureless terrain.....