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The military was hard at work on GPS accuracy during the war.
The U.S. Department of Defense improved the performance of its GPS satellite navigation system to provide accuracy within three meters for precision guidance systems for munitions, aircraft and ground forces during the Iraq war.
John Clark, principal systems engineer at The Aerospace Corp., an El Segundo, Calif. -based not-for-profit company that supports the Defense Department's GPS Joint Program Office in Los Angeles, said the Global Positioning System (GPS) enhancement represented an eightfold increase from normal accuracy of 16 meters.
The GPS constellation consists of 24 satellites arranged in clusters of six planes. Each plane is aligned with four satellites, which circle the Earth in a race-track orbit, with each plane rising and setting over a particular spot throughout the day. Clark said the space operations squadron was able to improve the accuracy of GPS satellites by timing uploads of satellite ephemeris (precisely plotted positions of the GPS satellites) and timing information just as a particular plane was scheduled to "rise" over the Mideast.
The squadron uploaded the ephemeris and timing information from a worldwide network of ground control stations that includes those in the Azores island chain in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia Island in the Pacific. Clark said the network was configured in a day to handle the demands of the Iraq war.
During the war, the squadron provided GPS accuracies of 2.66 meters "over Baghdad," according to the squadron's commander, Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Henderson. Henderson said that as individual satellites came up on the horizon over the Mideast, the squadron would upload to the satellites the latest navigation parameters. He said this improved the accuracy of the satellites by 35%. The precise location and timing information helped better determine the position of the satellites. This in turn allowed the satellites to provide more accurate location information to receivers in precision weapons and aircraft as well as receivers used by ground forces.
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