GPS policy will continue to be cooperative

GPS policy will continue to be cooperative


Scott Pace
Scott Pace
Chief Technologist for Space Communications,
National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
Washington, D.C.

The United States developed the GPS, and the protocols for signals from GPS satellites, that are used in worldwide positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) applications. The US released a new National PNT Policy statement on December 15, 2004 that addresses U.S. space-based systems, including GPS. In this interview with [email protected], Dr. Scott Pace of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), who was closely associated with the development of new policy, reveals the meaning of the Policy statement and its larger implications in the realm of international cooperation

The United States already had a 1996 statement on U.S. Global Positioning System Policy. Why was there a need for new policy?

The previous policy introduced GPS as a dual-use system, and presented a strategic vision for management and use of GPS and it generally addressed a range of military, civil, commercial and scientific interests. The new policy builds and expands on the old one in response to changing international conditions and the incredible growth in GPS applications we’ve seen in the past decade.

As a result, the new policy focuses on: 1) the development, acquisition, operation, sustenance, and modernization of GPS and U.S. developed, owned and/or operated augmentations; and, 2) international cooperation with international space-based PNT systems and augmentations.

GPS signals are focused on the Earth. So how does NASA’s GPS research fit into a Vision of Space Exploration that is focused on missions to the Moon and Mars?
GPS signals are used by spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle and the ISS. As we move farther from Earth, the signals become weaker and harder to use. The vision for space exploration includes developing innovative technologies, knowledge, and infrastructures both to explore and to support decisions about the destinations for human exploration. The vision will stimulate new research that will literally become the final frontier in navigation.

Drawing on our experience with GPS, we can imagine creating a GPS-like network of satellite around Mars. This “Marsnet” could include integrated navigation and telecommunications to provide a substantial increase in data rates and connectivity from Mars to Earth and create an in situ navigation capability to enable more precise targeting and location information on the approach to and operations at Mars. The idea would be that spacecraft and crews at Mars would have access to existing communications, navigation, power and other “utility services” and each mission would not have to be fully self-contained as is the case for Mars missions today.