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Details on New GPS 24+3

by diane 2010-02-22 06:21

The new GPS 24+3 configurations will significantly affect your GPS operations, especially if you’re using RTK or DGPS.

The effect of the 24+3 configuration will be to increase the visibility of more GPS satellites throughout the day at a given location. In addition to have more satellites in view, you will generally see lower PDOP values which can result in an increase in accuracy; but certainly the increased satellite visibility is the major upside with 24+3.

Remember that the GPS satellites are configured in 6 orbital planes (A, B, C, D, E, F) with X number of satellites in each plane that are referred to as “slots.” For example, slot A1 is the first satellite in the A plane, slot B4 is the fourth satellite in the B plane. Note that the slots aren’t necessarily in numerical order.

Many of the satellites are paired together. When GPS satellites are paired together, there is little benefit to the user on the ground because the satellites aren’t “spread out”. Ideally, the user on the ground needs the satellites to be “spread out” in the sky which will result in a lower PDOP value (better constellation geometry) and ultimately better accuracy. The satellites are in this configuration today because GPS policy defines a 21+3 configuration. Since there are 30 operational GPS satellites in orbit (six more than required), the six spares are placed near other operational satellites. This isn’t optimal for the user on the ground.

The concept behind the 24+3 configuration is to spread out the satellites more than the current configuration to benefit users on the ground. This involves significantly repositioning three GPS satellites (SVN24, SVN26, SVN49) and slightly repositioning three other GPS satellites (SVN56, SVN46, SVN55).

SVN24 has the furthest distance to travel. It began its journey late last month and will arrive in January 2011. SVN49 and SVN26 will both arrive at their destination slots in May 2010.

If they were in a hurry, the satellite travel time could be reduced, but they have to conserve fuel. After the satellite reaches its destination slot, it must have enough fuel to occasionally maneuver as well as retain enough fuel for an end of life boost which could happen many years in the future.

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