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  • Writer's pictureDAVID MITLYNG

Weekly Takeaways March 23, 2023

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Necessity is the Mother of Invention Advances in timekeeping have always been spurred by necessity. The original calendars were developed with the advent of agriculture. Water clocks and sundials helped organize early shopkeepers and trade. Pendulum clocks kept merchants and prayer schedules on time. The marine chronometer helped sailors solve the longitude problem. Pocket watches kept trains running on time. And wristwatches were popularized by soldiers and aviators. GPS was slightly different; it was built first, then the application followed. It was only a happy accident that it provided a master clock just as networks moved from analog to digital. And it was incredibly successful in that role, enabling 4G LTE, financial transactions and power grids. But it has reached a limit. 5G timing standards were written around GPS’ capabilities with expensive hardware. For 6G and beyond, another advancement is needed. Last Week's Theme: Time, Navigation and Hegemony


Industry News

Conferences

Industry News

The More You Know...

One of the key takeaways from the WSTS conference is the need for alternative timing sources to GPS. But within the government sector there is also concern about vulnerability of GPS in case of a future conflict:

  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence “Annual Threat Assessment” “highlights China’s space capabilities as one element of the country’s larger quest for global dominance”.

  • US Senator Angus King (I-Maine) grilled the commander of the US Space Command, Gen. James H. Dickinson, about the vulnerability of GPS: “I believe GPS will be one of the first targets in a conflict… We’ve got to have a high priority on having alternatives to GPS, it seems to me,” warned Senator King. General Dickenson confirmed that they are “looking to alternative PNT – alternative position navigation and timing – and how we can develop those types of capabilities.”

  • The Department of Defense CIO, John Sherman, said it’s imperative the U.S. has alternative PNT systems ready to go if GPS is disrupted. “The thing I talk about often is our potential adversaries also know how much we rely on GPS. The adversary is going to try to come at it on day one of any potential conflict.”

  • The director of staff for the US Space Force, Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno, is worried that new sophisticated weapons make it harder to detect a malicious attack on GPS satellites: “There are ground based jamming capabilities that Russia and China have, ground based laser dazzler capabilities that they have… It doesn't damage the optics. But a stronger laser, which they're working on, could damage not only, you know, the sensitive optics, but could also take out a solar array.”

  • The chief of space operations of the US Space Force, Gen. B. Chance Saltzman, worried that large US satellites in fixed orbits “makes them particularly vulnerable to direct attack…If you complicate targeting, you get resiliency, you raise the threshold for attack, which equates to deterrence…So it’s the idea of going to smaller satellites and proliferating our missions across multiple larger constellations that really gives us a more resilient architecture.”

  • The deputy commander of US Space Command, Lt. Gen. John Shaw, worries that the U.S. relies on satellites “to project power across the planet and they’re not all that well defended. So we should not be surprised that we’re under threat. We have to completely rethink how we do our space architectures. We’re probably gonna have to be more nimble.”

  • The commander of US Space Forces Indo-Pacific, Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, claims that China has put up a lot of satellites just within the last five to six years, including surveillance systems “designed to find, track and target U.S. forces and allied forces.”

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