More Accurate Next-Generation GPS III Coming Soon

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS) GPS technology can have problems, including a weak signal. But CBS Denver's Paul Day learned space engineers at Lockheed Martin are working on a new generation of GPS to benefit both the public and the military.

On a foothill trail it can be easy to get lost holding a modern navigation aid. The trouble is rock formations block out the voice of GPS -- the global positioning system -- according to hiker Scott Lindell.

"It can be scary. You can really worry about whether you can find your way back out," Lindell said.

It's not just a backcountry problem. In the heart of major cities tall buildings can silence the GPS signal. The solution lies in the next generation of navigation satellites called GPS III.

"I love being on this program," Edwina Paisley said.

Paisley is helping assemble and test GPS III at Lockheed Martin's facility in Jefferson County. For the electrical systems engineer, it's a rare opportunity for her family and friends to appreciate what she's doing.

"For the first time in my career I'm working on a program I can share with people what I do and they know what I'm talking about...everyone has a cellphone or a GPS device in their car," Paisley said.

GPS III is designed to be three times more powerful and three times more accurate than the existing system.

It turns out hiker Lindell is very familiar with GPS III, as director of business development for Lockheed Martin. He says the next generation of GPS improves coverage around the globe.

"Think of that as you're in a room and you've got to talk loud enough to talk over all the noise in the room. We're going to add more voice to you so you can talk through more noise on the Earth," he said.

It will also be a big benefit to America's military because GPS III is much more difficult for the enemy to jam.

"It's going to be great for civilians, it's going to help our military counterparts as well, so it's a wonderful asset for us to have," Paisley said.

Lockheed Martin is under contract to the Air Force to build the first of 32 planned satellites. The first launch could occur as soon as 2014. But it won't be until the end of this decade before the new system becomes available widespread.

Just like the current system, the new GPS III will be free to all users.

© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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