Mike Stevens | May 20, 2009

The speed at which GPS has become intertwined into our lives over the past decade is phenomenal, especially with the onset of GPS-capable mobile phones. If you’ve got an iPhone or a new Nokia, you’ve probably made use of its maps application more than once.

Combine that with GPS devices used for in-car or at-sea navigation, or by hikers, freight companies and couriers, and the number of people using satellite navigation at any one moment must be almost incalculably large.

Now it seems that, according to a report obtained from the US government by UK paper The Guardian, the satellites that all of our GPS units communicate with may be failing, and could start malfunctioning as early as next year.

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The Guardian says that the US government report outlines a plan for the nation’s Air Force to spend US$2 billion on upgrades to the satellite network.

The global positioning satellite network used by most of the world has been maintained by the US Air Force since the early 1990s, meaning that many of the satellites in the network are nearing their twentieth birthdays.

Without the upgrades, we could begin to see a lot more ‘failed to connect’ messages on our GPS gadgets – an annoyance for most of us, but a potential danger for regional areas and aircraft.

From The Guardian: "It is uncertain whether the Air Force will be able to acquire new satellites in time to maintain current GPS service without interruption," said the report, presented to Congress. "If not, some military operations and some civilian users could be adversely affected."

Don’t toss those old paper maps out just yet…

[via The Guardian]

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