U.S. Statement from COPUOS
S&T Subcommittee

February 13, 2009

The following remarks were delivered by the U.S. representative to the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) in Vienna, Austria.

Visit the COPUOS website...

Statement by Jim Higgins, United States Representative, on Agenda Item 10, Recent Developments in Global Navigation Satellite Systems

Mr. Chairman, my delegation is pleased to provide an overview of U.S. space-based positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) policy, information about the status of our constellation and modernization efforts, and a summary of U.S. bilateral and multilateral diplomatic efforts to support compatibility and interoperability among current and future space-based PNT providers.

First, let me start out with a summary of the main policy points the United States supports concerning space-based PNT systems. The United States strongly supports compatibility and interoperability among current and future space-based PNT systems. The U.S. is committed to keeping the Global Positioning System (GPS) as a central pillar in an emerging international system of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS). The U.S. intends to continue improving GPS's accuracy and performance. Our consistent policy of open access to all information needed to design and build new products and services using civil signals from GPS has helped unleash the power of free markets and private enterprise for the good of all users worldwide.

Like the Internet, the U.S. Global Positioning System is now a component of the global information infrastructure. New applications for GPS are constantly being introduced, facilitating greater business efficiency, transportation safety, environmental protection, public security, scientific discovery, etc. Increasing adoption of GPS by businesses and governments for infrastructure use is made possible by the predictable and dependable U.S. policy framework based on open access to the necessary elements that encourages development of new commercial and civil products and services based on GPS. This framework has strengthened over time, with several key milestones worth mentioning:

Key elements of the 2004 Policy include the goals that: the U.S. provide uninterrupted availability of space-based PNT services; GPS remains the pre-eminent military space-based PNT service for U.S. and allied use; the U.S. continue to provide civil services that exceed or are competitive with other civil space-based PNT services; and GPS remains an essential component of internationally accepted PNT services. It is important to remember that the global GPS civil service performance commitment has been met continuously, without interruption, since 1993.

GPS is a dual use, (civil and military) system with oversight, per the 2004 Policy, by a Deputy Secretary-level National Executive Committee for Space-Based PNT. The Executive Committee is supported by a National PNT Coordination Office (NCO) staffed by civilian and military personnel detailed from key Departments. The Committee also receives expert advice from industry and academia through an Advisory Board administered by NASA. This Advisory Board includes significant non-U.S. membership.

Although the number of operational satellites constantly changes as old satellites are removed from service and replaced by modernized satellites with additional signals and improved accuracy, the GPS constellation currently has 31 operational satellites, which exceeds the service guarantees provided by the USG. One indicator of GPS' improving performance is that the User Range Error of the signals has decreased from 4.6 meters in 1990 to less than one meter today, reflecting the U.S. commitment to constantly improve the accuracy and availability of GPS signals.

Current efforts to modernize GPS include system-wide improvements in accuracy, availability, integrity and reliability; continued backward compatibility as new signals are introduced; robustness against interference; improved indoor, mobile and urban use; and interoperability with other GNSS. In 2008 contracts were awarded for the new generation GPS Block III-A satellites as well as for the next generation ground control system known as OCX. The 4th edition of the SPS Performance Standard, including increased commitments to GPS accuracy, was published, as was the first ever Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) Performance Standard. Currently deployed Block IIR-M satellites will begin broadcasting the second civil signal's (L2C) navigation message in 2009. Also in 2009, the next generation GPS Block IIF satellites will begin being launched and will include a third civil signal, L5. Following the Block IIF satellites, GPS III satellites will continue to build operational capability for L2C and L5, and will include a planned fourth civil signal L1C, jointly developed with Europe to be fully interoperable with the Galileo Open Service.

Positive results from over a decade of U.S. cooperation and diplomatic efforts on satellite navigation issues are being seen. New satellite constellations and regional augmentation systems, while independently owned and operated, are being designed to be compatible and interoperable with each other. The International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), which emerged from the 3rd UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and formally established in November 2006, is already making significant progress towards the goals of encouraging compatibility and interoperability among global and regional space-based PNT systems and promoting the use of GNSS and its integration into infrastructures, particularly in developing countries.

The United States hosted the third meeting of the ICG and its affiliated Providers Forum December 8-12, 2008, at Pasadena, California. The results of those meetings can be found in document A/AC.105/928. In addition, we want to recognize the staff and leadership of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) for all their hard work in assisting with the planning and organization of this meeting and for their continued support as the Executive Secretariat for the ICG and Providers Forum. In this regard, since 2001, the U.S. is pleased to have provided over $1 million to OOSA in support of GNSS related activities, including regional workshops and support to the ICG and Providers Forum.

The next meeting of the ICG and Providers Forum will be held in St. Petersburg, Russia, September 14-18, 2009.

The U.S. has many productive bilateral relationships on satellite navigation issues. U.S.-Japanese cooperation on GPS has included regular policy and technical consultations since 1996 and is currently based on the 1998 Clinton-Obuchi Joint Statement. The U.S. and Japan held their annual GPS consultations in Tokyo in November 2008. Japan's MT-SAT Satellite-based Augmentation System (MSAS), which was declared operational in September 2007, is fully compatible and interoperable with GPS. Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), which will improve GPS coverage over Japan, has also been designed to be compatible and interoperable with GPS. The U.S. and Japan signed agreements in August 2008 to set up QZSS monitoring stations in Hawaii and Guam.

The European Union and the U.S. signed a GPS-Galileo Cooperation Agreement in 2004. We jointly designed a new civil signal modulation called MBOC that will be used for the new GPS III civil signal and the Galileo Open Service. We also confirmed compatibility and interoperability between the planned signals known as L5 on GPS and E5a on Galileo. The U.S. and the EU held the first plenary meeting under the 2004 Agreement at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C., in October, 2008. Russia and the U.S. are engaged in negotiations for a GPS-GLONASS Cooperation Agreement. The working group on search and rescue cooperation held its latest meeting at Cape Canaveral in May, 2008. The working group on radio frequency compatibility and interoperability has met many times -- the latest session was just before the ICG-3 in December 2008. We understand Russia is considering adoption of two new civil CDMA signals at L1 and L5 we expect will support an emerging international consensus on use of L1 and L5 for interoperable civil signals.

India and the U.S. have been engaged in policy and technical consultations on GPS cooperation since 2005. Video-Teleconferences were held in mid-2008 and early 2009 to further discussion on India's possible signal choices and to encourage overall compatibility and interoperability of the planned Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS). Interoperability between the U.S. Government supported Wide Area Augmentation Service (WAAS) and India's planned GAGAN augmentation system based on GPS has been agreed.

In conclusion, let me reiterate a few key policy principles. The U.S. intends to continue improving GPS's accuracy and performance. The U.S. is committed to keeping GPS as a central pillar in an emerging international system of Global Navigation Satellite Systems. As new space-based PNT systems are implemented, interoperability is the key to "success for all." Therefore, the United States strongly supports compatibility and interoperability among current and future space-based positioning, navigation and timing systems.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Take Action: