Prepared Remarks of
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin
May 2, 2000
Thank you for that generous introduction.
I am honored to be here to discuss with you the status of the Global Positioning System at this fourth Conference in the GNSS series of the European Group of Institutes of Navigation.
Today is the 35th anniversary of the first trans-Atlantic satellite broadcast of television pictures. That milestone indicates to me just how far we have come in exploiting the advances satellite technology have brought the world.
And I am here today to help celebrate one of those advances.
Accurate global navigation has been the goal of many nations for centuries. In recent years, we have taken great strides in achieving that goal by using earth orbiting satellites equipped with ultra-stable atomic clocks -- a modern version of the chronometer first developed by John Harrison that allowed us to solve the "longitude problem" over two centuries ago. We all know that system as GPS.
In 1996, President Clinton issued a broad-ranging national policy for GPS. A provision of that policy called for an annual review, beginning in 2000, to determine the need for continuing the use of Selective Availability. We have conducted the first review, and as a part of it, we considered representative views from all sectors of our user community -- the customers of GPS. The civil user community delivered a very clear message. They saw a significant benefit for users such as aviation, automotive, railroad safety, and emergency services if SA were turned off as soon as possible
GPS has had a dynamic, if brief, history, but one of the most exciting occurrences in GPS happened yesterday. The President of the United States of America announced that the Selective Availability (SA) feature of GPS will be discontinued. And as of midnight GMT last night, SA was turned off.
The result has been an immediate improvement in the position accuracy of the GPS Standard Positioning Service.
How much improvement?
Yesterday, the GPS receiver in your automobile would have been able to tell you what block you were on. Today, it can tell you whether you are in front of your house or not.
Shutting down SA is the latest step in the evolution of GPS. Beyond this, the long-term vision for GPS includes encouraging the worldwide acceptance and integration of GPS for peaceful purposes, encouraging private sector investment, and promoting safety and efficiencies in transportation and other fields.
GPS is being applied on land in surveying, automotive, railroad safety, emergency fire and rescue, and construction applications; on the oceans and navigable waterways to provide more efficient use of maritime resources; in the air to provide safe and efficient aviation; and yes, now even in space.
And some of the science research being conducted using GPS promises even greater benefits within a few years, such as the possible development of earthquake warning systems using high density grids of GPS monitoring stations.
Moving more closely to the NASA mission and vision, GPS should help us conduct both human and robotic aeronautics and space operations more safely. Within two years, the Shuttle fleet will rely on GPS as the primary source for navigation. The International Space Station (ISS) operations will rely on GPS to enable critical rendezvous procedures as well as safe navigation of "Free Flyers" near the ISS.
From an aeronautics perspective, we see an equally direct connection to the goal of building and flying airplanes more safely. NASA's research program is aimed toward reducing the fatal accident rate by 80% by the end of the next decade and cutting it in half again in the decade after that.
One of NASA's most exciting projects in this area is a technology we call synthetic vision -- the development of advanced sensors, digital terrain databases, accurate geo-positioning, and digital processing to provide a perfectly clear 3-D picture of terrain, obstacles, runway, and traffic. GPS plays a major role in making this happen in four areas -- avoiding controlled flight into terrain, improving precision approach and landing operations, reducing runway incursions, and avoiding loss of aircraft control.
This application goes well beyond simple visual imaging through clouds and weather. It enhances the elements you need to see and suppresses the ones you don't. It will ensure a reliable and easy system for threat avoidance, regardless of whether the threat is a mountainside or a recently constructed transmission tower. And it will provide clear warning advice and guidance to the pilot from leaving the gate at the start of a flight through approach, landing, and taxiing back in.
Imagine the incredible utility and safety increases that will result when every flight, to any runway can be flown with equivalent of perfectly clear, sunny, daytime visibility conditions. And not just for the most experienced pilots -- for general aviation pilots as well.
We have recently taken a major step in making synthetic vision a reality by collecting the detailed terrain data needed for the digital earth map during the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission. This data, when merged with GPS precision navigation will create the type of digital images needed to provide clear out-the-window vision needed to greatly reduce flight into terrain type accidents -- the number one cause of aircraft fatalities worldwide. And incidentally the data collected on the Shuttle mission was enabled through the use of GPS receivers operating in the Shuttle's cargo bay.
Prior to today, the largest single factor limiting the accuracy of GPS to civil users has been SA. With the discontinuance of SA, civil users can realize up to 10 times more accuracy with GPS immediately, at no additional cost and using current receivers.
Right now, the dominant source of positioning error is the distorting effects of the earth's ionosphere on the signals from space. These effects will be minimized and the accuracy of the system further enhanced by the GPS modernization initiative, which was announced last January.
This initiative will add a new, second civil signal to GPS satellites launched beginning in 2003 and a third civil signal to satellites launched beginning in 2005. The second civil signal will be located at 1227 MHz and will be available for general use in non-safety critical applications. The third civil signal will be located at 1176 MHz within a portion of the spectrum allocated internationally for aeronautical radio navigation services. This third civil signal is intended for critical safety-of-life applications such as civil aviation.
When used in conjunction with the current civil signal, the new signals will significantly improve the robustness and reliability of GPS for civil users and will enable unprecedented real-time determination of highly accurate position location anywhere on or near the surface of the earth. Also, we are finalizing plans for a study of the next phase of modernization of the GPS system. We anticipate the award of one or more study contracts in the fall of this year.
These initiatives are funded and on track. With these new signals, the service provided to civil, commercial, and scientific users worldwide will become even more accurate, reliable, and robust. And this will open more markets for GPS equipment and services throughout the world. This modernization effort will cost about $2.7B over the next five years.
I also want to note that the World Radio Conference 2000 begins next week in Istanbul, Turkey. Among other things, this conference will address the specific spectrum bands we need to accomplish the initiative I mentioned above. These issues are of vital interest to all of us here at GNSS 2000. Of course, very fundamental to any radio navigation system is the ability to use the system free from worry or concern about interference from other radio systems. In that light, I want to draw your attention to three issues in this area of vital concern to us.
Conferees will deal with the proposed sharing of a portion of the radio spectrum in the 1559-1610 MHz band set aside for use by satellite radio navigation and aeronautical radio navigation services. We depend upon these bands to provide safety-of-life service for aviation and other emergency services.
Since we can never comprise on safety, we must agree to reserve this band for the sole use of systems providing life-critical services. I urge you to contact your National radio administrations and request that they not only preserve those bands for radio navigation services now, but also, move to suppress any consideration of sharing this band with any other incompatible radio service in the future.
Conference participants will also consider new allocations to Radio Navigation Satellite Services. Of special interest are those areas where there is existing aeronautical radio navigation service and where additional safety-of-life services can be provided from space.
We have identified the band between 1164 and 1188 MHz as a particularly attractive area for such an allocation. This signal will not cause interference to other systems. We understand that there are concerns about the best way to mitigate the potential interference from DME systems operating in the band. However, I urge you to encourage your radio administrations to support this new allocation as we work together to resolve the DME question.
Finally, attendees will take up the proposed allocation of the bands 1215-1260 MHz and 1569-1610 MHz for use in the space-to-space communication. These allocations will provide international recognition and regulatory protection for the emerging space uses of GPS that I addressed earlier, and here again I urge you to express support for them.
I believe all individual users and their governments have a significant stake in the future of GPS. I would encourage each of you here today to do everything you can to ensure that our WRC-00 agenda items receive favorable consideration at the upcoming conference
Satellite technology and its applications have come a long way from the television transmissions of the Early Bird satellite. It gives me great satisfaction to see that the investments we made in space technology development in the last half of the 20th century are now paying off by improving every-day life for the inhabitants of planet Earth.
There is no better example of this payoff than the Global Positioning System. It is a free resource, available for use in all nations, rich or poor. In fact, it is now possible for developing nations to implement virtually instant infrastructure to support safe aviation, maritime navigation, precise time distribution, and a host of other applications. In the future, things will get even better as the new GPS frequencies come on line, again free of charge.
Every one of us should take great pride in the positive impact GPS is having throughout the world.
Thank you very much.