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Iridium launches timing, location service as GPS back-up

Iridium

WASHINGTON: U.S. firm Iridium Communications Inc on Monday said its Satellite Time and Location (STL) system was ready for use as an alterative or companion to the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites.

Iridium developed the new STL system with Satelles, a private firm, to deliver signals using Iridium’s 66 low-earth satellites, making it less vulnerable than ground-based terminals used for GPS services.

The Virginia-based company said the STL system gives users access to accurate position, navigation and timing technology using inexpensive chips that work anywhere on earth, providing an alternative to GPS and a way to verify GPS signals.

“STL can help solve an important and growing problem for governments and businesses, and serve as a platform for continued innovation,” Matt Desch, chief executive of Iridium, said in a statement.

Satelles provides technology and services to companies that are using the new capability to protect assets, authenticate users and carry out other functions reliant on GPS time and location.

GPS jamming, “spoofing” and other attacks in recent years have prompted the U.S. military and other users to look for ways to augment and authenticate GPS signals.

South Korea, for instance, told the United Nations Security Council last month that North Korea has been jamming its GPS signals since March 31, threatening the safety of civilian aircraft and vessels and violating international agreements.

Desch said the new technology used chips that were the size of a postage stamp, and could ultimately be integrated into other devices, heavy machinery, automobiles and the power grid.

The STL system transmits signals through Iridium’s satellite constellation to deliver a unique code to each position on the ground that can be independently authenticated.

Iridium and Satelles said the new system had been demonstrated in military, academic and commercial applications, but gave no specific details.

Desch told Reuters in March that at least 20 military and government agencies and private companies had expressed interest in STL.

Iridium gave no immediate details on any launch customers for the new service.

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