U.S. Statement to the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space

February 13, 2012

A U.S. government representative delivered the following remarks about GPS during the 49th Session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS) in Vienna, Austria.

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Statement by the United States Representative, on Agenda Item 9, Recent Developments in Global Navigation Satellite Systems

Mr. Chairman, the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) continues to set a high standard of reliability, accuracy and service to the international community. During 2011, work to reconfigure the constellation to an expanded 24+3 slot constellation to provide better coverage and availability around the world was completed. Over the past year, the United States continued its diplomatic efforts on a multi-lateral and bi-lateral basis to support compatibility, interoperability, and transparency among current and future space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) providers. The United States is also proud to report that the International Astronautical Federation bestowed its 60th Anniversary Award to the U.S. GPS program for its benefits to humanity at a ceremony held October 4, 2011, in Cape Town, South Africa.

As of January 18, 2012, the GPS had 31 operational satellites in orbit to ensure a baseline constellation of 24+3 satellites. Seven of the Block IIR-M satellites and two new Block IIF satellites are broadcasting a second civil signal called L2C. The IIF satellites are also broadcasting a new civil signal at L5, which eventually will be used for safety-of-life applications. Four additional satellites are in residual status and could be re-activated if one of the currently operational satellites experienced an unexpected anomaly.

The entire GPS constellation continues performing at exceptional accuracy levels, averaging a user range error of less than one meter (.9 meter). The reliability of the constellation has been enhanced by solid performance from the Block IIR and IIR-M satellites which have solar array and power capacity that far exceeds the specified mean mission duration. The second Block IIF satellite was declared operational in October 2011. The next IIF launch is scheduled for mid 2012.

Our current procurement and launch strategy has led to more satellites on-orbit than the minimum required to maintain our current 24+3 satellite constellation. The United States has the flexibility to reconfigure back to the basic 24 satellite constellation if required. The civil GPS performance commitment has been met continuously since December 1993, and we intend to keep this record intact in the future.

The U.S. would like to assure the international community that we are working diligently to prevent domestic unintentional and intentional human-caused interference to GPS/GNSS users. The 2004 U.S. Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Policy directs U.S. Federal Departments and Agencies to "Improve the performance of space-based positioning, navigation, and timing services, including more robust resistance to interference..." The PNT Policy is reinforced by the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy that directs us to "Invest in domestic capabilities and support international activities to detect, mitigate, and increase resiliency to harmful interference to GPS..." The U.S. encourages other nations and administrations to take appropriate steps to protect GNSS users from interference and improve GNSS system robustness to receiving interference.

The United States compliments Japan on the successful hosting of the Sixth Meeting of the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG-6) and the meeting of the related Providers' Forum in Tokyo, Japan, in September 2011. ICG-7 will be held in Beijing in November. We commend the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) for its outstanding performance in assisting with the planning and organization of this meeting and for its continued support as the Executive Secretariat for the ICG and Providers' Forum.

The United States was pleased with progress made on the ICG work plan. In particular we are encouraged by the growing attention placed by the international community on multi-GNSS system monitoring to improve performance and interoperability as well as on interference detection and mitigation. In addition, the United States continues to promote greater transparency in GNSS systems in line with the adopted principle on transparency: "Every provider should publish documentation that describes signal and system information, policies of provision and minimum levels of performance for its open services."

The United States continues to provide stable financial support to UNOOSA in support of GNSS related activities, including regional workshops and support to the ICG and Providers' Forum. In this regard, we would like to draw the attention of Member states to the OOSA report on "10 Years of Achievement of the United Nations on Global Navigation Satellite Systems." This is an outstanding account of what has been accomplished in promoting the benefits of GNSS through the Unispace III Action Team on GNSS, the ICG and UN sponsored Regional Workshops.

In addition to our multilateral efforts on GNSS related issues, particularly at the ICG, the United States has many productive bi-lateral relationships on satellite navigation issues. The United States and Russia signed a statement on the margins of the Institute of Navigation conference in Portland, Oregon, in September 2011 that reaffirmed our mutual intent to continue discussing matters related to GPS and GLONASS cooperation. In particular, both Russia and the U.S. intend to work to the maximum extent practicable to pursue compatibility, interoperability and transparency in the provision of civil satellite-based navigation and timing signals. As a practical step towards interoperability, both sides are interested to achieve, to the maximum extent practicable, the coordination of geodesy and system time references of both GPS and GLONASS. The U.S. would also like to congratulate Russia on repopulating its GLONASS system to provide global coverage.

The United States would like to congratulate the EU on the successful launch of its first two in-orbit-validation Galileo satellites on October 21. During 2011, the U.S. continued its close cooperation on GNSS activities under the 2004 GPS-Galileo Cooperation Agreement and also continued work on International Telecommunication Union coordination with the EU on its EGNOS satellites.

The United States would also like to congratulate China on a series of successful launches for its Beidou Satellite Navigation System and that in late 2011 the system started providing initial positioning, navigation and timing services to China and surrounding areas.

In conclusion, let me reiterate several key policy principles. The United States intends to continue improving GPS's accuracy and availability through improved satellite and clock performance, and modernized satellites. The United States is committed to keeping GPS as a central pillar in an emerging international system of Global Navigation Satellite Systems. As older systems re-energize and new systems emerge, signal compatibility and interoperability among GNSS, as well as transparency in the provision of open civil services, are key factors in ensuring that civil users around the world receive the maximum benefit from GNSS applications. Therefore, the United States strongly supports international cooperation among current and future GNSS.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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