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1998-05-07 07:09:05


GPS System: Repair Will Be 3 Months After Shutdown



The Global Positioning Satellite system was designed to roll back (start over) every 1,024 weeks. On August 22, 1999, the GPS will "lose" these weeks and start over. Every piece of GPS-dependent software must be corrected by that time.

One piece of military software will not be fixed until December, 1999 -- three months after the GPS rolls back. This was admitted by Assistant Secretary of Defence Emmett Paige, Jr., in recent testimony.

The GPS is also used by private citizens to locate where they are: mapping programs, trucking, open-sea triangulation. It is used by banks to calculate interest rates. Most significantly, it is used by telecommunications systems to establish precise timing for signal switching and other operations.

What if GPS goes down for three months prior to y2k? That would create major problems right when the finishing touches (everyone promises) have to be put on the y2k repair.

This is from GOVERNMENT COMPUTER NEWS (April 14).

* * * * * * * * * * *

Of the Defense Department's myriad systems, the Global Positioning System is most vulnerable to malfunction and most likely to suffer devastating consequences due to year 2000 code problems, DOD officials have concluded.

"People are depending on this system far beyond anybody's expectations," said Lt. Col. Rick Reaser, chief engineer for the Navstar GPS Joint Program Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. "People's lives depend on this system, and we take that very seriously."

DOD plans for all military aircraft to use GPS for navigation by 2000 and the military's growing dependence on GPS-guided smart bombs have heightened Pentagon concerns about the vulnerability of the navigation system to year 2000 glitches.

First showcased during Operation Desert Storm, GPS has become the source for precise and accurate targeting information for the Tomahawk cruise missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition, Army Tactical Missile System and Joint Standoff Weapon.

"The most significant system today that is not [year 2000] compliant is GPS, which would have more impact than anything else," Emmett Paige Jr., assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, recently told the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology. "Yet I have no doubt that GPS will be ready along with all the other weapon systems and command and control systems in the Department of Defense."

The GPS year 2000 problem is threefold and reflects the three components of the navigation system: the space segment, the ground control segment and the user segment.

GPS consists of 24 operational Navstar satellites mounted on six orbital planes that continuously broadcast navigation signals to ground stations. Specialized computers built into inexpensive, portable GPS receivers in turn derive highly accurate position and velocity information by correlating data uploaded to the satellites from ground stations.

Ground gaffes

According to documents provided to Congress earlier this month by Paige's office, the year 2000 problems within the space segment can be found in two pieces of ground equipment: the Bus Ground Support Equipment vehicle checkout stations and the Boeing Mission Operation Support Center (MOSC).

Software to correct the year 2000 problem in the Bus Ground Support Equipment vehicle checkout stations already exists, and DOD will install it during the normal systems maintenance lifecycle.

But the MOSC date code problem lies in its underlying commercial products. So DOD will replace MOSC with the Integrated Mission Operation Support Center (IMOSC), which it expects to finish in December 1999.

But GPS JPO is working to push the completion date up at least six months to June 1999. The IMOSC project is part of a $1.3 billion GPS Block IIF satellite contract that DOD awarded to Boeing Co. last April.


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