Software delays satellite navigation program

The Federal Aviation Administration announced today it will delay by more than a year the rollout of its major satellite-based navigation system.

Originally, the FAA planned to put into service Phase One of the Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS) in July. However, the agency has pushed the commissioning off until September 2000 because engineers need more time to develop a critical software safety package that monitors, corrects and verifies the performance of the system.

WAAS, being developed by Raytheon Systems Co., will use a network of ground stations to refine Global Positioning System signals so that the signals are reliable enough for navigation across the country and for precision approaches to airports.

The revised schedule came after the FAA realized this final and most complex software module would be a much greater challenge to develop than originally anticipated, said Steve Zaidman, associate administrator for Research and Acquisition at the FAA.

The other major software modules have been completed, and all the hardware systems for Phase One are in place. However, the correction and verification system, which performs more than 20 monitoring, correction and verification functions, including the validity of WAAS messages, is not finished.

FAA administrator Jane Garvey said the agency is still committed to WAAS because of the safety benefits it will provide and because it is central to the FAA's overall efforts to modernize the National Airspace System.

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