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Flood_aftermath.jpgNouméa ground station after the flood
This Time: Popularizing BeiDou, Ashes and Airplanes, Freak floods for Galileo, GLONASS launch failure, Supersized earthquakes and GPS

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1. ASHES & AIRPLANES
Boulder, Colorado USA
√ Someday, aircraft electronics could analyze GNSS signal strength as it becomes blocked by volcanic ash and detect it early enough to avoid clogging the engines. In Geophysical Research Letters, University of Colorado aerospace engineer Kristine Larson realizes the value of this often unused data. With monitors on many volcanoes — and more signals arriving with multi-GNSS — this ubiquitous information might become a useful, inexpensive air safety tool.

2. FIREBALL
Baikonur Spaceport, Kazakhstan
√ Three Glonass satellites disintegrated when their Proton-M rocket blew up seconds after launch on July 2. The failure caused indefinite suspension of scheduled Proton launches from Baikonur. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin leads an investigating commission and expects to report by the end of July — including a list of responsible officials. RIA Novosti cited a premature launch and Interfax-AVN reported that angular velocity sensors had been installed upside down.

3. BEIDOU AND BAIXING
Shanghai, China
China wants regular folks (“Baixing”) to get to know BeiDou, but the user segment is too underdeveloped for consumers to create the demand. So Shanghai intends to spend US$30.65 million in the next 18 months to build BeiDou compatible ground-based infrastructure, a Wi-Fi network and 50,000 receivers for elder and child monitoring, tourism and transport, and more. The goal: spark the commercial market and get everyone on board.

4. ERROR ALERT
Canberra, Australia
√ More than a decade of supersized earthquakes greater than 8.0 have frazzled GPS ground monitoring stations all over the world. Nearly every ground site has shifted since 2000, at an average rate of 0.4 millimeters per year, said Australia National University geoscientist Paul Tregoning. The terrestrial reference frame shifts will cause GPS measurement errors and throw off calculations of orbits. “We’ll have to find a way to deal with it” he said.

5. FLOODED OUT
Nouméa, New Caledonia
√ The heaviest rains and floods in 60 years washed out the access road to one of Galileo’s most remote ground stations in July, marooning the crew for 40 hours until their access road was repaired. Built on the flats surrounded by hills, the Nouméa station was designed to screen unwanted radio signals. Those same characteristics made it a rain funnel. Thanks to high foundations and an emergency generator, everything kept on ticking.

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