Space Command Plans Y2K Tests On GPS (Federal Computer Week) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

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JUNE 4, 1999 . . . 18:35 EDT

Space Command plans Y2K tests on GPS

The U.S. Space Command plans to conduct another series of Year 2000 tests on the Global Positioning System this month.

The Space Command plans to conduct Year 2000 tests on Space Vehicle 43 in the GPS constellation June 22, June 25-26, June 28 and July 1. The tests, which the command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., has yet to officially announce, will involve advancing the system clock in the satellite to Dec. 31, 1999. Other tests will include advancing the clock to Feb. 28, 2000, to test that the satellites will work on Feb. 29 and March 1.

In addition, the Space Command on June 28 will test the GPS' "end-of-week rollover," which occurs about every 20 years. More precisely, every 1,023 weeks, the GPS clock starts over at 0000 weeks. GPS system time commenced Jan. 6, 1980 -- when the first satellite in the constellation began operation -- and was programmed to roll over after 1,023 weeks. Rollover will occur at midnight between Aug. 21 and Aug. 22, 1999.

One specialized group of users has started to brace itself for the possibility of disastrous results from the tests. In April, the Space Command experienced problems when it conducted a test on one of the 24 satellites in the GPS constellation. Scientific institutions that belong to the International GPS Service (IGS), which maintains a worldwide network of 200 GPS receivers that measure tectonic plate movements and provide centimeter-level accuracy to surveyors, reported widespread problems during the April tests. "A disturbingly large number of receivers in the global network had problems,'' one user told FCW.

The problems occurred in flash cards used to store data received from the satellites for post-processing and analysis of satellite data. "Users could not get the data out," the user said, "and we experienced a half-day outage" as a result of the tests.

The manufacturer of the receiver used extensively in the IGS network, Allen Osborne Associates Inc., has updated software for all its receivers, according to Scott Osborne, the company's vice president. Osborne said if users in the IGS network experienced problems during the last test, "they have not asked for upgrades...because we have upgraded 20-year-old receivers."

Osborne said users also may experience problems because they installed their own software in the receivers.

Osborne said his company has spent millions of dollars to ensure the Year 2000 compliance of receivers. He said the users experienced problems in the April tests because the receivers were tracking operational satellites, which were running in real time, as well as the test satellite, which had artificially advanced time. Osborne said users wanting to test their receivers should isolate the test satellite from the operational satellites.

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 06, 1999


Question: How will the GPS guided super-takers around the globe do on the rollover at midnight between Aug. 21 and Aug. 22, 1999?

Just curious.


-- Diane J. Squire (, June 06, 1999.


I've been following GPS problem for over 2 years now. If this test ends up being OK ...

Space Command on June 28 will test the GPS' "end-of-week rollover," which occurs about every 20 years.>

Then those ships should be OK. The military's been working on this for a while. Info's been shared with MAJOR companies. But, still many others are not aware.

Besides they'll be able to do manual back-up to determine location.

Time synchronization is gonna be a bigger problem IMHO. Financial transactions, networks, internet, utilities, etc.

I'm talking about August 21/22 here.

January 2000 is another problem with GPS. More worrysome. Ground control is NOT Y2K compliant. New system isn't scheduled for initial delivery until September for testing. They're cutting it real close. Too close. IMHO

-- Cheryl (, June 06, 1999.

What about all those dodgy Liberian registered ships...

-- Andy (, June 07, 1999.

Good news, they're testing.

Bad news, they found more problems than expected in the last test, and as usual, found these problems in an unexpected area (geological processing and surveying) - even though it was only a limited scope event.

GPS-guided ships will be (could be) affected, but GPS receivers ar enot the only navigation method aboard. They are the easiest to use, though, and the most accurate, so some problems (ship groundings) could occur if skippers are lazy or "forget" how to do it the old and more conservative way - but the year 2000 problems in remote process sensors and controllers and computers will be more severe in Jan 2000 than the potential GPS problems in Sept.

They are two different events.

-- Robert A. Cook, PE (Kennesaw, GA) (, June 07, 1999.

'Space command, come in space command" "This is Buzz how do ya read me" "People on this planet are nuts they think their computer systems are not broken. Send Help fast".

-- Buzz Lightyear (spaced, June 07, 1999.

Space command ? Don't tell me they're living in Moon Base Alpha already ;-)

-- A person (, June 07, 1999.

(1) Most (especially modern) GPS navigation receivers won't have a problem.

(2) Supertankers (or tramp steamers, for that matter) have licensed officers who have been trained and tested on celestial navigation. The smart ones will be reviewing their navigation techniques and making sure that their ephemeris tables are up to date. Most major vessels have backup systems.

(3) Are there likely to be problems? Sure. Older receivers or special purpose receivers may well fail. It could be an interesting time for some small boat owners out of sight of land in the Hawaii area. I would expect a couple of EPIRBs being activated during or immediately after rollover.

(4) A more major (theoretical) problem might be if a ship has a GPS receiver connected to (and giving bad data to) the autopilot...but the competent ship's crews will probably be checking the data about that time. For the rest, just sail due east or west and you will eventually find land.

-- Mad Monk (, June 07, 1999.

Aye Capn' Mad Monk,

But tell those lubbers to bewar' ey of those Liberian buckets sportin' a skull n cross bones. Remember what the Naval War College warned 'bout pirates immediately after rollover!

In related news regarding safety of GPS, let us not forget the damage the Chinese have done to satelites with their particle beam lasers in the past. Good thing god 'ol BC gave the Chinese #1 Sun status huh?

-- unspun@lright (, June 08, 1999.

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