Better GPS Coverage On The Way

Military plans to activate more GPS satellites over the next year or two

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

The days of losing your GPS signal while hiking in a deep, forested valley may soon be over, thanks to Uncle Sam. The U.S. military’s Strategic Command department plans to activate more GPS satellites over the next year or two, increasing the number from 24 to 27.

Strategic Command planned the increased orbital presence to benefit soldiers fighting in the Middle East, where high mountains and deep valleys of Afghanistan create narrow windows for receiving satellite signals, hurting our soldiers’ abilities to locate each other, call in support, and navigate. But as a bonus hikers, drivers, sailors, and other civilian GPS users should see increased benefits in coverage as well.

The military doesn’t have to schedule launches; while 24 active satellites currently float in orbit, the military keeps a few extras on standby in low orbit, ready to be activated when needed. While the calculations involved are difficult and time-consuming (satellites have finite fuel reserves), one is already moving toward operating orbit, and the other two could arrive by January 2011.

Good news for soldiers, and good news for hikers. And if you’re just getting into the GPS game, check out BACKPACKER reviews of a few new GPS models right here.

—Ted Alvarez

via NY Times

Image Credit: bossco