GPS, as Political Issue

This article in Wired focuses on some interesting military strategic issues around Galileo, the new European satellite navigation system that is supposed to provide consumers around the world with navigation services that supplement and improve on the accuracy of the existing Global Positioning System (GPS) beginning in 2008. The goal for Galileo is to make Europe independent of non-European space infrastructure for strategic and commercial applications associated with space systems. This drive for autonomy is rooted in the idea that space is an essential part of a nation’s infrastructure in the 21st century, just as railways were in the 19th century and roads and power grids were in the 20th. The problem is that Galileo has been assigned two small frequency bands, E1 and E2, which the US military wants the ability to jam if necessary. But because these bands bracket the US GPS, jamming signals in them might risk obstructing a new US military GPS signal called M-code, which will be broadcast in two parts at the edges of the existing GPS band. Some are worried that putting encrypted signals onto the E1 and E2 bands, where it can hide in the M-code’s skirts, may make them unjammable, neutralizing a key tactical advantage for the US military.

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