US taking steps to fix technical error with Boeing GPS satellites

Air Force Space Command said the glitch affected the “indexing” of some GPS messages from a type of satellite known as IIF, which affects how messages are sorted and stored.

The issue came to light in recent days, but a close examination of archive data showed the problem had gone unnoticed since 2013. It gave no details of the extent of the problem, its impact on performance or how it had come to light.

A glitch in the ground software appeared to be causing an occasional message transmitted by the GPS satellites that did not meet U.S. technical specifications, it said, adding that it was continuing to investigate other possible causes.

A temporary solution had been put in place and officials were taking steps to permanently correct the error.

Boeing, the prime contractor for the GPS IIF satellites, had no immediate comment on the news, which comes days before the Air Force is due to launch the ninth GPS IIF satellite into space.

GPS is a space-based worldwide navigation system that provides users with highly-accurate data on position, timing and velocity 24 hours a day, in all weather conditions.

The system is used by the military for targeting precision munitions and steering drones. It also has a wide range of commercial applications including verification of automated bank transactions, farming and tracking shipments of packages. Car navigation systems and mobile phones use GPS to determine their location.

Boeing is under contract to build 12 GPS IIF satellites. The first of the GPS IIF satellites was launched in May 2010.

In its statement, Air Force Space Command said the issue appeared to be related to the ground software that builds and uploads messages transmitted by the GPS satellites. It did not say which company is responsible for the software.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Susan Thomas)

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