NASA's Plan To Protect GPS Satellites? Hand Them Over To Homeland Security.

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Why this is making a splash today, I can’t really answer, but here we go. Nasa published a white paper [PDF] in November that discusses how best to protect our GPS satellites from any sort of impropriety. The primary suggestion is to have the president declare our GPS satellites critical infrastructure. Once they’ve been classified as such the Department of Homeland Security will be put in charge of making sure they’re fully operational.

Once that’s taken care of you can move onto the smaller steps: establish a program to more quickly report (and subsequently repair) any malfunctioning satellite; criminalize the jamming of GPS signals; tell commercial manufacturers to ensure that their GPS devices don’t clonk out because, say, it’s cloudy outside or there’s a light breeze; and and to fun a GPS back-up service. If, for whatever James Bond reason, the satellites stop working and GPS ceases to function it’d be helpful to have a Plan B so that airplanes don’t fall out of the sky and whatnot.

(There used to be a system that could accomplish much the same tasks as GPS called LORAN, based on radio, but that’s been phased out in the U.S.)

It turns out that The Economist recently reported on a DARPA project that would create a free smartphone app that people could use that would detect GPD jammers. Once detected, the app would inform the authorities that something was afoot, much like that “good citizen” app that made headlines several months ago.