Image: NASA

What’s New: A seemingly counter-intuitive finding, as described by the headline, and the first discussion that we have heard about “killer electrons.”

Why It’s Important: Understanding when and how critical systems, like GPS can fail, is essential to preventing failures or, if that is not possible, mitigating them.

What Else to Know:

  • There are many kinds and combinations of solar events.
    • Major categories include solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles.
    • We are just beginning to understand each and their implications.
  • The sun is incredibly powerful and we have put most all of our PNT eggs in one basket.
  • Solar activity is just one of many threats to GPS. That’s why we advocate for complementary and backup capabilities that include a terrestrial component.


Thanks to sharp-eyed RNTF member Mitch Narins for pointing out this article!


GPS satellites threatened more by mild solar storms than monster sun flares

Mild solar storms can cause more serious problems to GPS satellites than once-in-a-century events, a new study has found.

Storms that erupt from the sun create challenges for satellites in Earth‘s orbit. Scientists are trying to understand these events better to help operators protect their spacecraft. And sometimes, they find surprises.

A new study by researchers from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) discovered that satellites in the Global Positioning System (GPS) orbit may suffer more from milder solar storms than from the frightening events that wreak havoc on power grids and telecommunication networks on Earth.