Next-Generation GPS Satellite Launched

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A new GPS satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral last week, adding new technology to the current system that will provide greater accuracy, enhanced resistance to interference from the earth's ionosphere, and other improvements to performance. The two-ton satellite will replace an aging unit that was launched in 1993. What does it mean for GA users? "The latest launch represents a firm commitment to satellite navigation and demonstrates that there will be plenty of assets in space to ensure that the GPS signal is always available," said Randy Kenagy, AOPA's senior director of advanced technology. "That's especially important for general aviation as more GPS-based wide area augmentation system (WAAS) approaches are created." WAAS approaches allow for ILS-like minimums without the expensive ground-based equipment. "I think this is a pretty huge step," Col. Allan Ballenger, GPS system program director at the Space and Missile Systems Center, told Space.com. "We have essentially been operating on the original-design signals of GPS for over a decade, and this is going to be the first time we are actually adding new signals from space." Seven more of the new satellites are in production, and more advanced satellites are in the works. Ballenger said the design has been carefully assessed to ensure that the new signals are fully compatible with existing technology in use today.