GPS after the end:

Total posts: [7]
Okay so I use a GPS all the time and I have for vague idea of how it actually works.

I'm writing a semi-post-apocalyptic story.

I'm just wondering, if everyone everywhere stopped doing their jobs because of say, a global pandemic. How long would it be before GPS didn't work anymore.

edited 15th Feb '13 9:39:45 PM by HistoryMaker

Official design life for GPS sats is 12-15 years. Not sure how long they'd last beyond that, but the system is pretty much automated and should continue to run until its components start to fail.
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Also, a question like this would be better suited for the Random Questions Thread, not its own thread.
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4 m8e17th Feb 2013 10:06:50 AM from Sweden , Relationship Status: Wanna dance with somebody
The satellites need to be syncronized to an atomic clock on earth once in a while(have no idea how often). I have read somewhere that without this the accuracy would fall with about a foot/day (c * 1 ns).

edited 17th Feb '13 11:02:29 AM by m8e

Terracotta Soldier Man
GPS satellites are placed pretty high up, around 20,000 km — high enough that it'll take a very long time for their orbits to decay to the point that they're falling out of the sky. It's more likely that the satellite will just stop working first, and even more likely that it'll lose contact with the ground tracking stations before that.

The Global Positioning System essentially works by triangulation. For that to be reliable, each satellite has to know where it is in relation to the Earth's surface and at least three other satellites (they're arranged so that there's always six satellites in view from any given point on the planet's surface). They have to be synchronized from time to time to update their tracking information, since they do shift around in orbit a little (Long story short: No orbit stays exactly the same for very long). I'm not sure how automatic this process is, but if the ground tracking stations go without maintenance for a while, it's likely the computers are going to break down eventually. You might still be able to get a GPS signal with the right receiver if you have power, but if the tracking information hasn't been synchronized for a long time, it's probably not going to be very reliable.

edited 17th Feb '13 11:47:10 AM by Specialist290

So it sounds like it would be plausible for my character to be using her GPS while everything is first falling apart, but calling it a useless piece of garbage one year later?
Terracotta Soldier Man
Pretty much.
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Total posts: 7