What prevents receiving GPS signals over Brazil?

The SPORT mission should be launched into space at the end of November. It is designed to study the reasons why GPS signals over Brazil are so unstable. Scientists suspect that the reason for this is plasma bubbles that form at high altitude.

SPORT device. Source: phys.org

SPORT Mission

At the end of November 2022, the SpaceX-26 cargo mission is to deliver a number of scientific cargo to the International Space Station. Among them will be the scientific apparatus Scintillation Prediction Observation Research Task or SPORT. Its developers are NASA and Brazil, and the scientific instruments were developed at the University of Utah.

After the two-bread-sized device is delivered to the ISS, it will be launched as a satellite into orbit. The main purpose of creating SPORT is to study the reasons why there are problems with the reception of GPS signals in some areas of Brazil.

This problem is known as “flickering”. Something at high altitudes causes erratic deviation of signals from GPS satellites. This, in particular, has a negative impact on the operation of Brazil’s military systems. SPORT will study the plasma state in the upper atmosphere and compare it with the wave curvature observed by ground-based equipment.

What distorts GPS signals?

Scientists are not sure which processes lead to the distortion of GPS signals over Brazil. The main role here is seen in the proximity to the equator. Above this zone, at an altitude of 80 to 960 km, peculiar plasma bubbles appear, which can affect the passage of radio waves.

The South Atlantic magnetic anomaly, which partially covers Brazil, may also play a role. In this zone, the Earth’s magnetic field is greatly weakened. According to scientists, this can lead to the fact that plasma in the atmosphere is formed at significantly lower altitudes than usual.

In order to unravel all these contradictions, SPORT will study the conditions for the passage of radio waves over different regions of the Globe. Only by putting all the data together, scientists will be able to say with certainty what causes this mysterious phenomenon and how GPS equipment can be protected from it.

According to phys.org

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