Image: U.S. Space Force

What’s New: Interesting article that explores some space-based and a few non-space-based options to backup GPS.

Why It’s Important: GPS is critical to so many technologies it is a “single point of failure” according to one National Security Council director.

What Else to Know:

  • Space Force seems to be limiting themselves to alternatives that are in space. That is understandable, though a good engineering systems approach would say that technology on the ground is just as important to the overall services to users. – If your goal is to deliver eggs to your customers, you shouldn’t have them all in one basket…
  • Which is not to say that LEO PNT is not a good idea, it is! It should be a part of a comprehensive and resilient national PNT architecture.
  • We have often speculated that Space Force or some other part of the U.S. government might acquire a commercial LEO PNT company or establish an exclusive contract for services, rather than build its own LEO PNT constellation,
  • Some of the systems mentioned in the article, such as WIFI, communications satellites, and so forth might depend on GPS timing signals. So they could be good local complements for GPS, but if GPS were not available at all, might not work themselves.
  • We like that the article asks “Where’s the money?” – Indeed, that is the question.
  • Full disclosure, Xona Space Systems and Trustpoint, both mentioned in the article, are RNT Foundation members/supporters.



The race to back up vulnerable GPS

The Space Force wants to harness commercial tech for alternative navigation and timing

For decades, the Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation has reigned supreme as the world’s go-to navigation tool — guiding everything from aircraft carriers to Uber drivers.

But GPS is susceptible to jamming and spoofing. Malicious actors can deliberately disrupt or manipulate the signals, leading to inaccurate or misleading positioning information.

These vulnerabilities endanger critical infrastructure, emergency response and military operations, prompting increased interest in alternative PNT, or positioning, navigation and timing technologies that do not depend on GPS.

While the Pentagon has long pursued augmented GPS capabilities, including using allied backup systems, it is now scoping a burgeoning commercial market promising innovative options to reduce GPS dependence.

In response to the military’s call for PNT alternatives, companies are lining up with offerings to fill gaps if GPS ever goes dark. These range from terrestrial networks that leverage existing cellular infrastructure to new constellations of low-orbiting small satellites broadcasting PNT signals.