The GPS III satellite armada will eventually make our GPS technology more accurate, but we’re not quite there yet.
Just three satellites have been launched thus far, and only one of them is operational at the moment.
Elon Musk recently tweeted that our ‘GPS just got slightly better,’ but that isn’t entirely true.
We tend to take GPS for granted these days. It works pretty well already and it feels like it’s always been there, even though it’s a relatively new technology, all things considered. It’s not perfect, of course, and we can see evidence of that in our map apps and games like Pokemon Go that sometimes send us flying all over the map as it tries to zero in on our position.
But like any technology, it’s improving, and the launch of a new GPS III satellite is a tiny step toward a more accurate Global Positioning System for the future. Elon Musk is obviously very proud that he has played a part in this and tweeted out a not-entirely-accurate boast that your GPS just got better.
SpaceX recently launched a new GPS III satellite that had originally been delayed since April. The launch took place this week from Cape Canaveral in Florida and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully delivered the satellite into orbit around Earth.
Musk’s boast, which included a tweet from SpaceX with a video showing the deployment of the GPS III satellite — the third of its kind now in Earth orbit — was a bit cheeky, since your GPS doesn’t instantly get better just because SpaceX’s spacecraft pooped the satellite into space. Still, he’s not wrong in the sense that GPS III should be a significant improvement over most existing GPS technology with regards to accuracy.
As Inverse reports, current GPS technology can narrow down a location to a relatively precise 28 inches. That’s pretty incredible all on its own, but GPS III will narrow that range down even further, offering accuracy within nine inches. That’s roughly three times as accurate as current GPS technology, but we won’t notice those improvements all at once.
Many more GPS III satellites are still waiting for their chance to fly skyward, Just one of the three GPS III satellites in orbit are operational, and manufacturer Lockheed Martin is in the midst of building another 10. The launches are expected to continue on a regular basis until mid-2023.
The satellites will have a lifespan of around 15 years, according to the company, at which point we may have even better technology to pinpoint locations with even greater accuracy. For now, however, we have to wait for the satellites to be fully operational before we might begin to notice a difference in the accuracy of our GPS if we ever noticed it at all.