Communications Satellites Vulnerable? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I am an electrical engineering manager in embedded systems. The potential impact on embedded systems was one factor that really made me start to take Y2K seriously (the professional stature of such men as Mr. Yourdon was another). Since small, low-powered embedded systems almost always share the very same feature--limited memory space--that caused the problem on mainframes in the first place, it seems quite possible that the controllers on various orbiting satellites could be vulnerable. There is a lot of talk about the potential impact on GPS receivers in the middle of next year. But what about the satellites themselves? Will GPS, communications, and other satellites function properly? Many of them are probably just fancy radio repeaters and are relatively "dumb". But is there a greater potential problem here?

Best regards,


-- David Palm (, April 13, 1998


Concerning GPS: For those unfamiliar with the system, GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite-based navigation system with unmatched precision and ease-of-use, global, 24hr, all wheather. I use GPS in area's were there are either no recent maps or no good reference-points to navigate on (some parts of the Himalaya's and the Arctic ice-sheet respectively). If it should fail unexpectedly during such a trip it could be lethal. You wouldn't even get back to sue the manufacturer ;-)

Most airplanes and ships use GPS to navigate nowadays, the system is simply too convienent not to use, even if it makes you dependent on the US DoD (they are in control of the satellite's).

I mailed to Garmin, the manufacturer of my handheld GPS, about it's vulnurablity of y2k and it week-based calender approaching it's max of 1024 in august '99.

Garmin Tech-support: As we approach the end of the millennium many customers have concerns regarding the year 2000, otherwise known as Y2K, and GPS products. We hope this letter will answer all of your questions and help in any planning required for this event. Garmin took Y2K considerations into account from the beginning of its product development. As such Garmin products should continue to operate after the year 2000. Products that display two digits for year will display 00 for the year 2000, 01 for the year 2001, and so on. If you are interfacing a Garmin product to an NMEA device such as a plotter or moving map, you should check with the respective manufacturer to be certain that these products can properly receive the 2 digit date in the NMEA data. Another important event for GPS receivers will occur on August 22, 1999. This event, known as GPS week number rollover, is when the week number transmitted in the satellite navigation message will change from 1023 to 0. The GPS week number rollover will not cause navigation errors for Garmin products if operated during the rollover event. Some older Garmin products may need to perform an "auto locate" or "search the sky" operation in order to acquire satellites and perform navigation functions after the GPS week number rollover occurs. In order to facilitate our customers Garmin will issue instructions for each product a few weeks prior to the GPS week number rollover event. All Garmin products currently manufactured by Garmin are Y2K compatible and do not require any user intervention in order to operate after the GPS rollover event takes place. The GPS system is operated by the Government of the United States of America which is solely responsible for its accuracy and maintenance including any GPS control segment and space segment issues associated with Y2K and GPS week number rollover. The GPS system is subject to changes which can affect the accuracy and performance of all GPS receivers.

- end of message -

regards & be careful out there, Arjen Kamphuis

-- Arjen Kamphuis (, April 13, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ