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Tip of the Day 11/16:The Future of Satellites

In our weekly Tech Tuesday tip,we tell you how to use technology to help you geocache.

The nation’s network of geostationary satellites,which is maintained by the U.S. Air Force,won’t last forever. New satellites must be regularly deployed to replace aging technology. As we were going to press,disturbing stories were emerging about the future reliability of the satellite network. “It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption,”warned an April,2009 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO). “If not,some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected.”It seems that the Air Force is running seriously over budget,and some satellite launches may be delayed or scrubbed as a result. The GAO report said the loss of satellites could affect the accuracy of GPSr devices,although it didn’t quantify the magnitude of the impact.

Don’t despair yet. Alarmist reports like this are often intended to inspire action. Geo-positioning is now so critical to the nation’s economy that the government will be motivated to find the money to keep the network stable or to beef up alternatives,such as the ground-based long-range radio navigation (Loran) system operated by the Coast Guard. A European network called Galileo is expected to go into operation by 2013.

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Do you think the satellite system will be phased out,replaced with a better system,or repaired as needed? Comment on this post to share your opinions.

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