GPS and Geocaching Begins an Eight Billion Dollar Upgrade

You won't be lost in the woods anymore (we hope). New GPS satellites are expected to increase accuracy.

The U.S. is upgrading its constellation of GPS satellites.  They’ll be replaced in an effort to greatly improve accuracy.  Good news for geocachers. The replacement satellites are expected to sharpen the accuracy of your GPS device from about 20 feet to just an arm’s length. They’re also touted as being more reliable – meaning you won’t lose the signal as often.

Hopefully, this means fewer Did Not Finds (DNFs) on the horizon. But it’ll take a while to reach the horizon.  The first generation of satellites will reportedly be swapped out one for one over the next decade.

The launch of the first of the next generation of GPS satellites has been scrubbed three times due to weather or technical glitches. The fourth time proved to be a charm.  The rocket carrying the satellite lifted off Thursday, May 27th from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The satellites’ software will be upgradable while they are in space and also continue to broadcast an atomic clock, keeping time to a billionth of a second.

Besides guiding travelers to destinations, ambulance crews to emergencies and owners to lost dogs, how else do we use GPS each day?

  • Well I know I use it to track my Wife's and Kids phones when they lose them… and yeah they have lost them quite a bit… thankfully we have been able to retrieve them every time…

    Also, we use our many GPS's to find that magical Tupperware container in the urban jungle 😛

  • nighthawk700

    Not only that, but hiders would need to check their coordinates. Marking it 20 feet off is still off, even with the most accurate GPS in the finder's hands.

  • Very True! However there are some caches that are purposely made offset, and cache owners need to note that on the cache page…

  • Better GPS accuracy sounds terrific, but it will still be up to individual geocachers to mark accurate waypoints. Cachers who hide a cache without letting their GPS receiver average for a period of time (I let mine average at least 10 minutes) before marking the waypoint cause their coordinates to be off, sometimes by dozens of feet. Guess what that leads to for the cachers hunting that cache?

  • Vince

    Cool we'll be watching tonight for it (we're in Central Florida so we should have no problem seeing it)… Weather on the other hand… Some storms around but nothing major. Keeping fingers crossed.

  • Mike Belanger

    And it's my friend's brother who works for the company that's launching that satellite! (Friend & I are both 'cachers)

  • Maybe the fourth time is the charm. The launch of the rocket carrying the next generation of GPS satellite was scrubbed last night. It's the third delay. Scientists may try to place the satellite in orbit again as early as Thursday.

  • I've placed one with multi-sample avaraging. 3 averaging 3 different times

  • Daniel

    Current GPSr will work with that or they will new a new firmware or it's totally new device we will need?

  • I'm curious to know any technical details about this upgrade. In what way is it different from the current GPS system?

  • Is it really that big a market? I never expect it to be such a huge market.