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LAII doubles GPS tracking capability

SCHRIEVER AFB, Colo. -- Global Positioning System satellite operators with the 2nd Space Operations Squadron here will soon have twice as many monitor stations to work with thanks to the Legacy Accuracy Improvement Initiative.

The initiative combined data from two National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency monitor stations and six 2nd SOPS monitor stations Aug. 18 - 23. Four additional NGA stations will soon be added to the total, doubling data collected for use by the GPS Master Control Station here.

The result of this increased data coverage will provide benefits to both satellite operators and users, said Capt. Erich Schroeger, 2 SOPS GPS navigation payload analyst.

NGA, headquartered in Bethesda, Md., provides geospatial intelligence in support of national objectives and uses their own GPS stations as part of their mission.

"With the added information from the NGA stations, operators will be able to know immediately that the information from a satellite is accurate and be able to immediately respond to satellite issues," said Capt. Rebecca Hamilton, 2 SOPS chief of GPS navigation payload analysis.

Combining data from the six initial NGA monitoring stations with 2nd SOPS monitor stations will allow satellite operators to see every satellite in the 29-bird GPS constellation continuously from at least two stations. When five more NGA sites are added, the MCS will see every satellite from at least three stations.

"Users will gain a 15- to 20-percent improvement in navigational accuracy without having to change or upgrade their GPS receivers," said Captain Schroeger.

The first NGA monitor station, located in Argentina, was rolled in Aug. 18. The second site, located in Bahrain, was rolled in Aug. 23.

The four remaining sites in Washington, D.C., England, Ecuador and Australia will be rolled in during the next two weeks.

It took 1.5 hours to roll the data from each monitor station into the MCS, said Captain Hamilton. To mitigate risk to the GPS system and users, data from the NGA stations are checked and verified for about 22 hours before being added to MCS data. Once the verification is complete, the data is rolled in on a real-time basis.

"We underwent a ton of testing last year to be ready for the integration," Captain Hamilton said.

Rolling in the NGA monitor stations was Phase 3 of a five-phase process. During Phase 1, software was added. Phase 2 involved modeling upgrades. Phase 4, which is slated to begin Sept. 12, will test and use the system at the MCS backup facility in Gaithursburg, Md. Phase 5 will be a follow-on modeling upgrade.

"We are so excited about this program," Captain Hamilton said of her nine-person shop. "It's great to know that everyone from operators to users will benefit from LAII."