GPS Service Could Begin to Fail in 2010

Sorry, did you think there wasn’t already enough to worry about right now? A wheezing economy, bankrupt automakers and lagging car sales still too rosy for your taste? Luckily, now we can also fret about the possibility of the Global Positioning System beginning to fail in 2010.

As navigation systems have become more commonplace in cars, smart phones and other devices, the old GPS satellites that keep those nav systems on the ball have begun to fail, according to the Government Accountability Office. Meanwhile, the Air Force — which is tasked with running the GPS network — has “struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals.”

Currently, the next generation of satellites has had its launch delayed by nearly three years while coming in $870 million over budget (and counting). The first satellite of this replacement crop is now scheduled to launch in November.

This may be too late to avoid interruption in GPS service for civilian drivers and a potential headache for the military, which relies on GPS for a number of different operations.

The GAO points to a lack of leadership in GPS satellite acquisition, noting that studies have found a “lack of single point of authority for space programs” as well as high turnover in program managers.

So, President Obama, we know you’re busy and all, but if you could get around to fixing this, too, most of us have totally forgotten how to read a road map.

Global Positioning System: Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities (

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