GPS going in circles? El Segundo firm tasked with predicting interference above Earth – California News

GPS going in circles? El Segundo firm tasked with predicting interference above Earth – California News


Has a GPS navigation system ever guided you to a nonexistent street or led you in circles when you’re just trying to find the nearest coffee shop?

Changing weather phenomena at the edge of Earth’s atmosphere routinely scramble invisible radio communications, and are one major cause of dropped signals and other GPS miscommunications.

The problem often is the result of broiling gas bubbles, wind and flares emanating from the sun and can be especially disruptive to maritime shipping, defense communications and aviation navigation.

But scientists are working to deliver notifications of such service interruptions well before they occur.

This week, NASA gave Aerospace Corp. engineers in El Segundo a contract to develop a sensor that can predict space-weather obstructions up to 24 hours ahead.

“We can’t stop (the disturbance that causes the problem) from occurring,” said Rebecca Bishop, the research scientist leading The Aerospace Corp. project. “What we can do is understand the conditions that lead up to it and forecast it.”

The nonprofit research-and-development company will engineer the new technology in partnership with NASA’s Marshall and Goddard Space Flight centers, and Brazilian researchers.

Once the equipment is built, it will be sent to the International Space Station for testing.

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The project, called the Scintillation Prediction Observations Research Task, or SPORT, is among the latest scientific advances bolstered by the increasing miniaturization of technologies like those found on smartphones.

It focuses on the explosive solar-generated weather that disturbs electrically…

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