What about the GPS System

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

What's the current status of the code/systems that run the GPS systems?

Everyone knows that there's a problem with the GPS receivers on 22nd August 1999 - rollover of the week counter.

But what about the systems that run the whole GPS system?

I have seen three articles where it has been alluded to that the code is broken for the GPS system. Two of these articles have been pulled from the web. Fortunately I have hard copies.

I have recently had email contact with one of the major GPS manufacturers, and in his reply he basically stated that in his thoughts the code had yet to be looked into. And that he thought that there would be problems with these systems.

He also said that it was discussed at the latest ION-GPS-98 meeting and that it will be the next hotly discussed subject.

Not only the software that runs the GPS systems but also the individual systems in place that reply on the GPS Atomic Clock Signal. i.e. Banks, Power Utilities, Telecoms and Sattelites all run off this signal.

All these systems are at risk if they are not remediated.

The military who run the systems, late last year issued a report where it was surmised that the entire GPS sytem could well be down from 22nd August 1999 till after the millennial rollover due to Y2k code problems.

It seems to me with all the talk/reports on different systems, that the GPS system is largely being ignored.

Everyone has accepted that there is a fault with general GPS receivers. But no one has been talking about these other systems.

From my uneducated view sattelites will fall out of orbit without this data input. Banks will have troubles because they utilise the atomic clock signal to computate interest etc. Power stations utilise the time signal for syncronisation. And telecoms utilise the time signals for economical data transfers etc.

Not to mention all the myriad of users of the GPS signal. Boats, planes etc.

What scared me in these email contacts was the admission from a Technical Sales VP of a major GPS manufacturer, that they still did not know which code was broken and what would work.

Nick Laird

-- Nick Laird (sharefin@cairns.net.au), October 19, 1998


Trouble is that I work for the Army, so have access to many military sites you don't. So I can't just hand you a link and say read this - even giving the existence of some of them might get me burnt. BUT - most of the info you want can be reached through sites that you can get to from this civilian site - if you aren't stopped by a firewall. Hope this helps.


-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), October 19, 1998.

The one point that you raise about satellites falling from their orbits, is the only one I can help on. The whole point of orbits is that they are stable, ie: things don't fall out of orbit unless acted upon. There have been satellites that have fallen, but it is because the original orbit was miscalculated and the orbit was not stable. As I understand it, most satellites are not powered and are shot into orbit. Anyone with better info?

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), October 19, 1998.

And what will be the effect on the satellites of the Leonids next month?...they can form a "plasma of energy" which can take out the more delicate electronics.

-- Laurane (familyties@rttinc.com), October 19, 1998.

Hold your horses Tricia, the only satellites you have to worry about falling from the sky ar eRussia ones - seems there have been several that have impacted in Northern Canada. Amazing trivia facts there - seems the US and Canada tracked down the parts by finding the radioactive residue from their onboard Pu reactors.....

But that the Russians for you. Real safety nuts about radiation.

Now, when you consider that the military had to track these parts as they fell, then go through hundreds of square miles of winderness to find the actual remnents, it gives you an idea about just how good some of these surveilance spy satelites are....

About GPS - the satelliites are in stable orbits, no problem there. But the command centers here on earth rely on exquiste timers and atomic clocks to keep everything in synch world-wide.

Requires power and communication, plus the "regular" computer programming to actually run the things. In any program using dates, there could be a problem. In any system using power or the telephones or satellites, there could be loss of communications for ??? long.....But the programs are here on earth, so they can be reprogrammed, but soembody has to start to to it.

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 19, 1998.

Thanks for the clarification, Robert. I didn't mean to imply that the satellites would be useful, just that they aren't likely to come crashing down on us. Nick said that he thought they might do that. I'm glad you agree with me that it is quite unlikely. I think Australia has had a satellite fall on them, too. We Canucks aren't the only lucky ones! 8-)

-- Tricia the Canuck (jayles@telusplanet.net), October 19, 1998.


Can't give too much insight about the satellites.

It's over my head.

-- Craig (craig@ccinet.ab.ca), October 19, 1998.

The GPS used in telephony are used to sync the high speed frame relays between carriers (local telcos, ATT, MCI, etc). The loss of the GPS would force the sync to onboard crystal clocks. This would not shut down the system but would greatly slow the speed of the net traffic.


-- Mike (justmike11@yahoo.com), October 19, 1998.

Actually Craig, they're way, way too far away and too high to be overlooked. Underlooked, now that's a different story.

But if they are over Australia, are they underfoot?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (cook.r@csaatl.com), October 19, 1998.

Here's an excerpt from an article appearing in the October 12 issue of Business Week, "A Warm-Up for the Y@K Glitch: The GPS system needs its clock reset."

"More than 375 models of GPS receivers are on the commercial market from more than 60 makers. Charles Trimble, founder of Trimble Navigation Ltd., a Silicon Valley GPS receiver maker, says the task of addressing the commercial market is 'next to impossible. No manufacturer has an accurate or complete database of who owns these things or how they're using them.'

"The Defense Dept. may also find itself in a bind. Although the Air Force has assigned a GPS team to the problem, it may not be able to make all the fixes in time. 'We don't have a good sense of how many of the commercial receivers we bought will be affected. It's not a majority, but there could be many, and those most prone to trouble could be older,' says Aaron Reninger, a spokesman for the military's GPS program office in Los Angeles...

"Defense's plans for all military aircraft to use GPS for navigation by 2000 and its growing dependence on GPS-guided smart bombs have heightened its concerns about the vulnerability of the aviation system. 'People are depending on the GPS system far beyond anybody's expectations,' Lieutenant Colonel Rick Reaser, chief engineer for the NAVSTAR GPS Joint Program Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base, told a congressional panel looking into the rollover problem."

Now if Bs Week would only be that forthcoming about y2k itself!

-- Faith Weaver (faith-weaver@usa.net), October 20, 1998.

This official summary is about a year old--

MILLENNIUM (Y2K) AND GPS END OF WEEK (EOW) ROLLOVER . Source: Capt Jason Christ GPS Y2K Lead Engineer, Navstar Global Positioning System Joint Program Office As of: 27 Oct 97

It appears to say that GPS satellites will NOT be a problem, and all GPS developers can get remedial help. Non-DOD users are not addressed. Some of the URL's given are restricted access sites.

Quoting from the SUMMARY:

GPS has two rollover issues: Year 2000 (Y2K) Millennium Rollover GPS End Of Week (EOW) Rollover All generations of GPS satellites are unaffected. Some satellite support system software in not Y2K compliant and is scheduled to be repaired or replaced. Operational Control System (OCS) operates on a mainframe legacy system and is affected by Y2K Rollover. Analysis by Lockheed Martin to be completed Nov 97, Estimate $3.5 - $7.6M in software repairs-- funds in budget; Complete before Y2K Rollover. Fully validated capability available to test GPS receivers for both Rollover phenomena. Test of all JPO-procured receiver designs complete-Sep 97. Rollover test capability is available to all DoD and commercial GPS developers on a fee/non-interference basis. Interface considerations now under investigation.

GPS JPO is widely publicizing both problems and corrective actions to DoD and civil users. GPS performance will be unaffected by the Millennium and EOW rollovers. END QUOTE

That last sentence seems to contradict the rest, since it depends on remediation by everyone involved on the ground, both manufacturers and users.

Anyone got anything more recent from GPS-JPO? or from whistle-blowers?

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), October 23, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ