R0012669 A reader at a Mac news site stumbled upon a Government Accountability Office report from the end of April noted that the U.S. Air Force is currently about 3 years behind in their scheduled maintenance and of the 24-satellite system that lets us all know exactly where we are on the globe. The GAO office calculated the reliability of each of the currently operating satellites, and adjusted for the delays in launching new satellites to replace the aging ones — and they figured that the probability of us having a fully functional, accurate GPS system drops below 95% for next year, and around 80% for 2011.

That might not sound like a big deal right now, but if the military doesn’t get new GPS III satellites in space, which would provide increased accuracy in urban environments and boost signal strength all-around), that probability falls to around 10% by 2017. That does sound like a big deal, although we probably don’t have to worry. GPS III contractors will get some big bonuses if they can complete the system by 2011, and Lockheed Martin just snagged a $1.4B contract to build the satellites. Beyond the military importance of the GPS system, the blow to commerce if the system failed or became unreliable would be pretty huge – especially now that receiver chips are in everything from cars to cell phones to flash memory cards.

Hopefully, the contractors will move faster than the Speed of Government. Or we’ll all have to switch over to the European Union’s free Galileo System, which should be done by 2013.

Via Trail Behind.

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