Congress Supports GPS Back-Up, Russian Satellite System Fails
Just hours after the US House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday to preserve infrastructure that could support a back-up system for GPS, the Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system unexpectedly went out of service for 11 hours.
On Tuesday afternoon, the first of April, the House passed the 2014 Coast Guard Authorization Act requiring the Department of Homeland Security to halt dismantling and disposal of infrastructure that could be used for a terrestrial system during times and in places where GPS is not available. The Department had announced in 2008 that it would build such a system. It never did so, and has recently begun divesting needed equipment and properties. This, in spite of a long standing presidential mandate for a system that could be used for critical infrastructure and applications in the event of a GPS outage.
Some media reports link the 11 hour failure of the GLONASS system, Russia’s equivalent of GPS, to a solar storm that struck at about the same time. Others have speculated that it was cyber-attack, though most reports indicate that it was probably due to bad data being uploaded. In April of 2010, a single satellite in the US Global Positioning System failed to respond to commands after a solar flare. This is the first time an entire constellation of navigation satellites is known to have failed.