GPS Week Number Rollover (WNRO)

Here is some historical background on the GPS week number roll-over event of August 1999.

21 June 1996 - The Millennium Comes Early to GPS

Although I'm sure the 10-bit GPS week rollover was obvious to GPS system designers and known to most GPS receiver manufacturers, this was the first public posting that I know of that discussed the issue:

From: gwinn@res.ray.com (Joe Gwinn)
Subject: The Millennium Comes Early to GPS
Date: 1996/06/21
organization: Raytheon Electronic Systems
newsgroups: comp.protocols.time.ntp


I am posting this to the NTP newsgroup because GPS is one of the primary
time sources used with NTP.

I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news is that GPS will not have a "Year 2000" problem.

The bad news is that GPS System Time will roll over at midnight 21-22
August 1999, 132 days before the turn of the millennium.  On 22 August
1999, unless repaired, many or all GPS receivers will claim that it is 6
January 1980, 23 August will become 7 January, and so on.  I would expect
that some manufacturers have already solved the problem, but many have
not.

The details:  Section 3.3.4(b) (page 33) of the ICD-GPS-200 rev B (30
November 1987 issue) states that the GPS Week count starts at midnight 5-6
January 1980 UTC, and that the GPS Week field is modulo 1024.  This means
that the week count will roll over 1024/52= 19.69 years from then, or in
1980+19.7= 1999, only a few years from now.  Specifically, first rollover
will occur at midnight 21-22 August 1999 UTC.

I could find no mention of any field in any GPS message that would tell
you which 1024-week cycle you were in.  In the July 1993 update of
ICD-GPS-200, a note has been added (also on page 33) saying that the week
number *will* roll over, and that users must account for this, but no way
to accomplish this is mentioned.  I take this note as further evidence
that there is no way to tell, given only the signal-in-space definition as
of July 1993.  

The GPS SPS Signal Specification, 2nd Edition, issued 2 June 1995, section
2.3.5(b) on page 19, repeats the words of ICD-GPS-200.

I have gotten some email traffic indicating that, just as I had suspected,
some manufacturers did realize that GPS would soon roll over, and were
keeping it to themselves in the hope that the others would fall upon their
swords.  Not pretty.  

Our timecode generator supplier was dumbfounded when I raised the issue,
couldn't stop thanking me for pointing it out years before rollover.  They
clearly feel that it could have been a life-threatening disaster for
them.  Every GPS-related product they had ever made would have come back
for repair, under warantee, all at once.  Too close for comfort.  

The firmware in all older units will have to be replaced.  This would
involve replacement of PROMs; some are socketed, some are soldered.  New
units presumably will know better than to claim dates from before they
were manufactured, and/or will allow the user to directly or indirectly
tell the firmware which 1024-week cycle to assume, without requiring
replacement of that firmware at the second rollover, in 1980+(2*1024/52)=
2019 AD.  Some of this equipment will still be in use then, long after the
manufacturer has forgotten the product.

However, in spite of everything, not everybody will get the message, so
system software will forever have to have an independent idea of what year
it is, to know when to disbelieve a receiver or receivers (they could all
be wrong), and to handle arguments between various GPS receivers (if only
some are wrong).

Without a GPS Simulator, there is no way for users to test a GPS receiver
for this problem.  All most users can do is to ask their manufacturer for
a solution, and also to imbue the system software with a suitable degree
of skepticism about GPS receivers' sense of time.

My intent in posting this note is to alert the entire industry to the
problem, allowing it to be solved with minimal disruption to all.  As a
technial matter, the solution is quite simple.  It's the logistics that
will take some years.

Joe Gwinn

09 July 1996 - The Millennium Comes Early to GPS, updated

Here is the updated Usenet posting from Joe. I had sent email to Joe suggesting the 8-bit leap second field could be used, as a last resort, to help determine the GPS cycle number (I was the "fellow at DEC" he mentions below). Joe agrees my idea "does appear to be workable".

From: gwinn@res.ray.com (Joe Gwinn)
Newsgroups: sci.geo.satellite-nav
Subject: Re: Will GPS system time roll over?
Date: Tue Jul 09 18:27:30 MDT 1996
Organization: Raytheon Electronic Systems


I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news is that the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) will not
have a "Year 2000" problem.

As part of answering our customers' queries about possible "Year 2000"
problems, I looked into the more general question of rollover in our time
sources.

The bad news is that GPS System Time will roll over at midnight 21-22
August 1999, 132 days before the turn of the millennium.  On 22 August
1999, unless repaired, many or all GPS receivers will claim that it is 6
January 1980, 23 August will become 7 January, and so on.  Accuracy of
navigation may also be affected, perhaps severely.  Although it appears
that GPS broadcasts do contain sufficient data to ensure that navigation
need not be affected by rollover in 1999, it is not proven that the
firmware in all receivers will take the rollovers in stride; some
receivers may claim wildly-wrong locations in addition to incorrect
dates.  

I would expect that some manufacturers have already solved the problem,
but many have not.

The details:  Section 3.3.4(b) (page 33) of the ICD-GPS-200 rev B (30
November 1987 issue) states that the "GPS Week" count starts at midnight
5-6 January 1980 UTC, and that the GPS Week field is modulo 1024.  This
means that the week count will roll over 1024/52= 19.69 years from then,
or in 1980+19.7= 1999.7 (August 1999), only a few years from now.  

For the record, this is how the precise rollover date was computed:  The
origin (time zero) of GPS System Time, 00:00:00 UTC 6 January 1980, is
Julian Day 2,444,244.500.  A GPS Cycle is 1,024 weeks, or 7,168 days, so
the first GPS rollover will occur at Julian Day (2444244.5+7168)=
2,451,412.5, which is 00:00:00 UTC 22 August 1999 AD, which is the
midnight between Saturday night the 21st of August, and Sunday morning the
22nd of August, 1999.

I could find no mention of any field in any GPS message that would tell
you which 1024-week cycle you were in.  In the July 1993 update of
ICD-GPS-200, a note was added (also on page 33) saying that the week
number *will* roll over, and that users must account for this, but no way
to accomplish this is mentioned.  I take this note as further evidence
that there is no way to tell, given only the signal-in-space definition as
of July 1993.   

Only the User Spec, described below, is available electronically. 
ICD-GPS-200 is available in paper only from the USCG Navigation Center
(703-313-5900).  It is also available from the training and supply company
"NAVSTAR Seminars and GPS Supply", at "http://www.navtechgps.com".

A more recent authority document is:  Section 2.3.5 (pages 18-19) of the
GPS SPS Signal Specification, 2nd Edition, issued on 2 June 1995, repeats
the words and warnings of ICD-GPS-200, apparently verbatim.  The GPS SPS
Signal Specification may be obtained from the web as an Adobe Acrobat
(.pdf) document, at the US Coast Guard's site at
"www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/reports/sigspec/sigspec.htm".  A very good
overview of GPS may be found at
"http://www.utexas.edu/depts/grg/gcraft/notes/gps/gps.html".

There appears to be sufficient information in the GPS signal to allow
accurate navigation, even at the moment of rollover.  However, unless the
receiver firmware programmers were intent on ensuring that their code
would operate both through and after rollover, the code may well fail,
even though in theory it should be OK.  More specifically, if the original
acceptance tests did not directly address the issue, it is fairly likely
that the firmware will stumble at rollover, and beyond.  Even if accuracy
of navigation is unaffected, seeing the date off by twenty years is likely
to destroy peoples' confidence in the navigational data provided by GPS,
and thus in GPS itself.

A fellow at DEC, reacting to my postings, suggested that one can use the
offset between UTC and GPS, currently (mid-1996) eleven seconds and
increasing more-or-less linearly, as a way to tell which 1024-week cycle
you are in, at least for the next few cycles.  I have looked into this,
and it does appear to be workable, if rough.  If one burns both the date
of manufacture and the then-current value of the GPS-UTC offset into the
firmware, it should allow the firmware to solve the rollover problem for
at least three GPS cycles, almost 60 years, which should suffice.   The
GPS signal's UTC-GPS offset (leap seconds) field is documented in GPS SPS
Signal Spec sections 2.4.5.5 and 2.5.6 (on pages 32 and 42 respectively). 
The leap-second history is at the US Naval Observatory's web site at
"http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/leapsec.html".

I have gotten some email traffic indicating that, as suspected, some
manufacturers did realize that GPS would soon roll over, and were keeping
it to themselves in the hope that the others would fall upon their
swords.  One supplier was dumbfounded when the issue was raised, clearly
feeling that it could have been a life-threatening disaster for them. 
Every GPS-related product they had ever made would have come back for
repair, many under warantee, and all at once.  

The firmware in all affected (older) units will have to be replaced.  This
will involve replacement of PROMs; some are socketed, some are soldered. 
New units presumably will know better than to claim dates from before they
were manufactured, and/or will allow the user to directly or indirectly
tell the firmware which 1024-week cycle to assume, without requiring
replacement of that firmware at the second rollover, in 1980+(2*1024/52)=
2019 AD.  Some of this equipment will still be in use then, long after the
manufacturer has forgotten the product, or has himself been forgotten. 
Nor is it guaranteed that the needed PROMs will still be available twenty
and fourty years hence.

 
Without a GPS Simulator, there is no way for users to test a GPS receiver
for this problem.  All most users can do is to ask their manufacturer for
a solution, to write suitable language into purchase specifications, and
to imbue the system software with a suitable degree of skepticism about
GPS receivers' sense of time.  I neither have nor know of any real list of
who does and does not have the problem solved. 

It wouldn't be that hard for those possessing a GPS Simulator to make the
needed tests.  Simply set the Simulator up to tell suitable lies to the
receiver-under-test.  As this is a receiver firmware design issue, one
test of each unique design (receiver firmware version) should suffice.

And, while we are testing things, we could also verify that the Gregorian
leap-year calculations are done correctly.  These are used in the
conversion from GPS System Time to UTC.  For some specific algorithms, see
"Calendrical Calculations", by Nachum Dershowitz and Edward M. Reingold,
"Software Practice and Experience, v.20, n.9, September 1990, pages
899-928.  

Is the government going to fix the problem?  Not to my knowledge, and it
would take ten years, plus replacement of all existing receivers.  They
are at the end of collecting requirements for the next generation of GPS;
perhaps adding some GPS-Cycle-number bits to a NAV message somewhere is
being considered.  In any case, such a fix would be something like ten
years in the making.  For the current list, see
"http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/reports/ordreq.txt".  A second civil
frequency (for a total of three carrier frequencies) is also being
considered.  This would involve big changes all around, and so will be a
golden opportunity to fix and/or improve this and many other things.  See
"http://www.navcen.uscg.mil/gps/cbdfinal.txt".

Reportedly, the official response (from the GPS Joint Program Office (JPO)
Public Affairs office) as of July 1996 is: "JPO is continuing to assess
the impact of the GPS time rollover on military GPS receivers.  Currently,
we [JPO] do not believe the JPO-procured military receivers will be
impacted.  However, each manufacturer, civil and military, has a unique
design and may be impacted by the rollover, depedent upon the
manufacturer's implementation of ICD GPS-200."

In spite of everything, not everybody will get the message, so system
software will forever have to have an independent idea of what year it is,
and where it it, to know when to disbelieve a receiver or receivers (they
could all be wrong), and to handle arguments between various GPS receivers
(if only some are wrong).  Soon, it will suffice to disbelieve any
receiver claiming to be in GPS Cycle zero (1980-1999).


My intent in posting this note is to alert the entire industry to the
problem, allowing it to be solved with minimal disruption to all.  As a
technical matter, the solution is quite simple.  It's the logistics that
will take some years.

This note is updated as new information becomes available: 9 July 1996 version.

Joe Gwinn

These postings are still archived at Google Groups last I checked.

12 November 1996 - Bogus Patent

Interestingly some months after my suggestion entered the public domain engineers at Trimble Navigation patented it. Patent 5,923,618 "Leap-second cure for 1999 GPS rollover problem" was filed November 12, 1996 and granted July 13, 1999.

I figure it's a cheap way to get someone else to file your patent for you! In Trimble's own words my idea was a "novel and highly effective solution to the 1999 GPS rollover problem". Here's the text as obtained from uspto.gov:

Abstract

Leap-second cure for 1999 GPS rollover problem

Abstract

The timing system for GPS has a week counter that recycles at intervals of about 20 years. The first recycling will occur on Aug. 22, 1999, producing a time ambiguity in GPS signals. The invention employs a count of leap seconds to resolve the ambiguity and extends the useability of GPS in its present format by more than a century.

Claim

We claim: 

1. A timing system comprising 

timing means that recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds and 

means employing a count of leap seconds to resolve time ambiguity due to recycling of the timing means. 

2. A timer comprising 

first storage means that stores a first count that is periodically incremented and recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds, thereby giving rise to an ambiguous relation between the first count and time; 

second storage means that stores a second count of leap seconds; and 

disambiguating means responsive to the first and second counts and using the second count to disambiguate the relation of the first count to time. 

3. A timer according to claim 2 wherein 

the first count has an incremental period of one week and a modulus of 1024. 

4. A satellite navigation system comprising 

at least one satellite and at least one receiver, the satellite transmitting a signal and the receiver receiving the signal; 

the signal comprising 

a first portion representing a first count that is periodically incremented and recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds, thereby giving rise to an ambiguous relation between the first count and time; and 

a second portion representing a second count of leap seconds; and 

the receiver comprising disambiguating means responsive to the first and second portions of the signal and using the second portion of the signal to disambiguate the relation to time of the first count as represented by the first portion of the signal. 

5. A GPS system according to claim 4 wherein the first count is incremented weekly and recycles every 1024 weeks. 

6. A GPS system comprising 

at least four satellites and at least one GPS receiver, each satellite transmitting a separate GPS signal and the receiver receiving each signal; 

each signal comprising 

a first portion representing a first count that is periodically incremented and recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds, thereby giving rise to an ambiguous relation between the first count and time; and 

a second portion representing a second count of leap seconds; and 

the receiver comprising disambiguating means responsive to the first and second portions of each signal and using the second portion of each signal to disambiguate the relation to time of the first count as represented by the first portion of the same signal. 

7. In a GPS system, the improvement comprising 

ten-bit means for counting weeks since Jan. 6, 1980, modulo 1024, giving rise to an ambiguity of almost 20 years on Aug. 22, 1999; and 

means employing a count based on leap seconds to resolve the ambiguity. 

8. A method comprising the steps of 

measuring time, modulo 1024 weeks, from Jan. 6, 1980; 

generating an expected count of leap seconds employed to synchronize GPS time with UTC; and 

employing the count of leap seconds to resolve the time ambiguity otherwise occurring on Aug. 22, 1999. 

9. A method according to claim 8 wherein the step of generating comprises the step of finding a least-squares fit of a straight line to the count of leap seconds. 

10. A method according to claim 9 wherein the least squares fit is substantially 

t=84.56+70.535*LSC, 

where 

LSC is a leap-second count and 

t is time in weeks since Jan. 6, 1980, inferred from LSC. 

11. A method of resolving time ambiguity in a GPS system, comprising the steps of 

transmitting a GPS signal from each of a plurality of satellites, each signal including 

a digital CA code representing time modulo 1 millisecond and enabling signal acquisition; 

digital data with standard bit boundaries and format giving the orbital parameters of the transmitting satellite and enabling a time measurement modulo one week; 

a week number encoded in 10 bits; and 

a signed leap second count encoded in 8 bits; and 

employing the leap second count to resolve the ambiguity due to recycling of the week count to 0000000000 following a week count of 1111111111. 

12. A method comprising the steps of 

measuring time, modulo 1024 weeks, from Jan. 6, 1980; 

generating an expected count of leap seconds employed to synchronize UTC with GMT; and 

employing the count of leap seconds to resolve the time ambiguity otherwise occurring on Aug. 22, 1999; 

wherein the step of generating comprises the step of finding a least-squares fit of a straight line to the count of leap seconds; 

wherein the least squares fit is substantially 

t=84.56+70.535*L.C., 

where 

L.C. is a leap-second count and 

t is time in weeks since Jan. 6, 1980, inferred from L.C.; and 

wherein the following algorithm is employed: 

Replace t by 84.56+70.535*L.C., 

Replace WN by t+((WN-t+512) AND 1023)-512, 

where 

L.C. is a leap-second count as read from a GPS data message, 

WN is a GPS week number, both as read from the GPS data message and after correction by t, and 

"AND" is a bitwise logical operation. 

Background

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 

FIELD OF THE INVENTION 

This invention relates to timekeeping and more particularly to a novel and highly effective timekeeping method and apparatus for solving a serious problem due to arise on Aug. 22, 1999. On that day, if no corrective action is taken in the meantime, the timekeeping signals provided by the most advanced navigation system in the world will become ambiguous. 

Navigation, map-making and surveying have been revolutionized by the global positioning system, or GPS, provided by the U.S. Government and to a lesser extent by GLONASS, a satellite navigation system provided by the Russian Government. A European satellite navigation system is planned but not yet operational. GPS and other satellite navigation systems enable a determination of one's position and velocity speedily, accurately, automatically, and inexpensively. 

The principles of satellite navigation are well known and will not be described in detail here. Those interested in the details can refer to a number of reference works, including GPS Theory and Practice, by B. Hofmann-Wellenhof, H. Lichtenegger, and J. Collins, Springer-Verlag, Vienna and New York, third edition, 1994. 

In broad outline, satellite navigation works as follows (for convenience, GPS is summarized, but the principles apply to satellite navigation systems generally): Since Jan. 6, 1980, as many as two dozen GPS satellites have been in various earth orbits at a height of about 20,000 kilometers (see FIG. 8, which represents four such satellites S, a ground-based receiver R, and Earth E). Each satellite carries an atomic clock accurate to one second in several million years. The satellites, while of course always moving, are distributed around the earth so that typically seven or more are well above the horizon as seen from any point on or near the earth. The satellites transmit line-of-sight signals, so that, absent obstruction by mountains, buildings, etc., one can expect always to be able to receive signals from about seven satellites, regardless of one's location (on or near the earth). For a "complete" fix (time, longitude, latitude and elevation relative to sea level), a receiver, which can be in a car, on a plane, aboard a ship, hand-held, etc., must receive signals from at least four satellites. For a fix that dispenses, for example, with a readout of elevation, reception of signals from three satellites suffices. For a determination of time, a signal from one satellite suffices (if the receiver location is accurately known, the time signal carries full GPS accuracy; if the receiver location is not known, the time error is at most 21 ms). 

Each GPS signal is encoded to indicate the time of transmission from the satellite and has several portions, including a coarse acquisition or CA code, a precise or P code, a portion representing a count of weeks since the inauguration of the GPS system on Jan. 1, 1980, and a data portion giving the satellite's status and orbital parameters. 

Time is encoded on the CA code modulo 1 millisecond (1 ms) and on the P code modulo 1 week. All GPS receivers can receive and use the CA code, but the P code is encrypted and requires for its use decryption software available only to the U.S. military. Use of the P code gives a move precise fix, but GPS receivers without the decryption software can use the data portion of the signal, which gives the satellite's status and orbital parameters, to approximate closely the week boundaries. Thus all users of the GPS system can obtain and use a signal from each satellite sufficient to enable software in the receiver to calculate a fix rapidly and accurately. 

However, the week count is encoded using only ten bits and is thus capable of a maximum count of 2.sup.10 =1024. In other words, 1024 weeks after the inauguration of the system on Jan. 6, 1980--i.e. on Aug. 22, 1999--, the week count will cycle from 1111111111 to 0000000000. As matters now stand, there will be nothing in the GPS data to tell explicitly that the year is in fact 1999 and not 1980. 

If no corrective action is taken, this will cause problems with both navigation and timekeeping. The navigation problem arises from the need to relate dated satellite orbit information to the almanacs and ephemerides that inform the receiver of the satellites' positions. Here the difficulty is simply to relate the data and computations for the old week 1023 to the new week 1024, which is encoded not as "week 1024" but as "week 0". It is a simple computational matter to interpret the differences between week numbers as being in the interval, for example, -512 through +511, rather than the interval 0 through 1023, and thus avoid completely any disruption to navigation during the rollover. 

The timekeeping problem is more difficult. Several solutions have been suggested. One is to design the system not to tolerate any date before it was manufactured, but rather to add the necessary multiple of 1024 weeks. That is satisfactory only for an additional 19.6 years; beyond that, the required multiple is ambiguous, and the rollover problem will arise again early in the year 2019. 

Another possibility is to save the current date in nonvolatile memory. This converts the 20-year life into a more acceptable 20-year shelf life. However, it introduces a vulnerability to a mistaken date. For example, if the system is programmed never to allow time to run backward, erroneously decodes a date, places it in the future as instructed, and then decodes the true date, it will place the true date in the future from the false date and always show a net advance of 19.6 years. Variations on the date algorithm that allow backward time changes can recover the correct date after an error, but not reliably. 

Another solution is to include a separate clock in each of the (myriad) receiving systems. This requires also adding to each receiver an uninterrupted source such as a battery to power the clock, since the clock must always be maintained, even during periods of nonuse. Although a clock in the receiver need not have high accuracy, a requirement for a local clock in each receiver adds to the cost, size and weight and is not a good solution to the rollover problem. 

In principle, the rollover problem can be neatly solved by changing the GPS data format to encode the week count using more bits. That, however, would require a major revamping of the GPS system--a project that, because of the risk of confusing existing receivers, has not been, and perhaps should not be, undertaken. 

What is needed is a solution that is sure to work for rather more than twenty years, using no external real-time clocks, nonvolatile memories, or user inputs. 

OBJECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION 

An object of the invention is to remedy the problem outlined above and in particular to provide a solution to the 1999 GPS rollover problem. Another object of the invention is to solve the problem for an extended period of time using no external real-time clocks, no nonvolatile memories, and no user inputs. 

The foregoing and other objects are attained in accordance with one independent aspect of the invention by providing a timing system comprising timing means that recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds and means employing a count of leap seconds to resolve the time ambiguity due to recycling of the timing means. 

Other independent aspects of the invention are set out in the following specification and claims. 

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING 

A better understanding of the objects, features and advantages of the invention can be gained from a consideration of the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment thereof, in conjunction with the appended figures of the drawing, wherein: 

FIG. 1 is a diagram of 1023 CA spreading-code chips, each having a duration of less than 1 microsecond (1 .mu.s), forming a CA (coarse acquisition) spreading code having a duration of 1 millisecond (1 ms) and tracking time modulo 1 ms; 

FIG. 2 is a diagram of 20 repetitions of the CA spreading code to make a data or parity bit having a duration of 20 ms and tracking time modulo 20 ms; 

FIG. 3 is a diagram of 30 data/parity bits grouped to form a word having a duration of 600 ms and tracking time modulo 600 ms; 

FIG. 4 is a diagram of 10 words grouped to form a subframe having a duration of 6 seconds, tracking time modulo 6 seconds, and employing the first 17 bits of word 2 to give the time modulo 1 week; 

FIG. 5 is a diagram of 5 subframes grouped to form a frame having a duration of 30 seconds, tracking time modulo 30 seconds, and employing the first 10 bits of word 3, subframe 1, to give the time modulo 1024 weeks; 

FIG. 6 is a diagram of 25 frames grouped to form a page having a duration of 12.5 minutes, tracking time modulo 12.5 minutes, and employing the first 8 bits of word 9, subframe 4, frame 18, to give a leap-second count; 

FIG. 7 is a graph representing a least-squares fit of a straight line to the historical count of leap seconds during the period 1973-1995; 

FIG. 8 is a diagram of navigation satellites in orbit about the earth and transmitting GPS signals to a receiver; 

FIG. 9 is a schematic view of circuitry for implementing the invention; and 

FIG. 10 is a flowchart representing software for implementing the invention . 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT 

The sun and moon, principally the moon, exert a tidal pull on the earth that gradually has slowed its rotation. The earth's corresponding pull on the much smaller moon has in fact synchronized the moon's rotation about its axis with its orbit about the earth, so that a "day" on the moon lasts for a lunar month, and the moon always presents essentially the same face towards the earth, albeit from a given spot on the earth it is possible at certain times to peer slightly around one limb and at other times around another limb of the moon because of the moon's slightly eccentric orbit and its excursions from the plane of the ecliptic. The recently discovered discrepancy between the rate of rotation of the earth's core and mantle (the core rotates faster) may be a manifestation of the same tidal phenomenon. 

The atomic second was defined in 1967 based on the ephemeris second as observed between 1956 and 1965. Before 1972, the second had been periodically lengthened to keep time synchronized with the earth's slowing rotation. Since then, the duration of the second has been held constant, and leap seconds have been inserted into the stream of time by international agreement. The insertions occur at the end of June or December in coordinated universal time (UTC) and keep UTC in sync with the earth's rotation. Negative leap seconds are provided for but have never been used. A leap second has been inserted about every year and a half, on the average. 

The rate at which leap seconds have been added has varied little over the time during which they have been used. Because of the disruption that would be caused by including leap seconds in the GPS format, they have been ignored in GPS time. Thus there has been an increasing discrepancy between GPS time as encoded in the GPS signals and UTC. To allow this to be corrected, a separate leap-second count is included in the GPS data message as a signed number encoded in 8 bits. The present invention uses the count of leap seconds to solve the rollover problem by disambiguating the week count as explained below. 

FIG. 1 is a diagram of 1023 CA spreading-code chips, each having a duration of less than 1 .mu.s, forming a CA (coarse acquisition) spreading code having a duration of 1 ms and tracking time modulo 1 ms. The dots in FIG. 1 indicate that a portion is omitted. The waveform illustrated is merely an example; it will in general be different. The code repeats at intervals of 1 ms. The internal design of the code makes it possible to track time to the nearest millionth of a second, and by detecting the chip boundaries it is possible to determine time much more precisely than that; but since the code recycles at intervals of 1 ms, it is not possible, using the code of FIG. 1 alone, to obtain a complete indication of time. 

FIG. 2 is a diagram of 20 repetitions of the CA spreading code to make a bit having a duration of 20 ms and tracking time modulo 20 ms. The bit of FIG. 2 can represent a part of a data signal or a part of a parity signal. 

FIG. 3 is a diagram of 30 data/parity bits grouped to form a word having a duration of 600 ms and tracking time modulo 600 ms. The first 24 bits encode data; the last 6 are parity bits. A "1" is distinguished from a "0" by the level of the signal. FIG. 3 represents 110100111001100101001011000110. This is of course merely an example; the signal will in general represent other values. 

FIG. 4 is a diagram of 10 words grouped to form a subframe having a duration of 6 seconds, tracking time modulo 6 seconds, and employing the first 17 bits of word 2 to give the time modulo 1 week. Thus the time of week is repeated at intervals of 6 seconds. 

FIG. 5 is a diagram of 5 subframes grouped to form a frame having a duration of 30 seconds, tracking time modulo 30 seconds, and employing the first 10 bits of word 3, subframe 1, to give a week count. Thus the week count is repeated at intervals of 30 seconds. However, since only 10 bits are devoted to representing the week count, the number of weeks that can be counted is 2.sup.10 =1024. The GPS system was inaugurated Jan. 6, 1980. During the first week of its operation, the week count was encoded as 0000000000. During the week ending Aug. 22, 1999, the week count will be 1111111111. At the end of that week, namely on Aug. 22, 1999, the week count will cycle back to 0000000000, and there will be nothing in the GPS data to tell explicitly that the year is in fact 1999 and not 1980. 

FIG. 6 is a diagram of 25 frames grouped to form a page having a duration of 12.5 minutes, tracking time modulo 12.5 minutes, and employing the first 8 bits of word 9, subframe 4, frame 18, to give a leap-second count. The leap-second count is already being transmitted by GPS satellites, albeit, as noted above, for a different purpose: to reconcile GPS time with UTC. In accordance with the present invention, leap-second information, which is already available, is employed to solve the rollover problem. 

FIG. 7 is a graph representing a least-squares fit of a straight line to the historical count of leap seconds during the period 1973-1995. As the graph shows, about every 1.5 years on average the count of leap seconds has been incremented by 1. More precisely, the relationship as determined by a least-squares fit of a straight line to the data is substantially 

t=84.56+70.535*LSC, 

where 

LSC is a leap-second count and 

t is time in weeks since Jan. 6, 1980, inferred from LSC. 

This equation is easily implemented in a GPS receiver (FIG. 9) by the software commands (FIG. 10): 

Replace t by 84.56+70.535*LSC, 

Replace WN by t+(WN-t+512) AND 1023!-512, 

where LSC is a leap-second count as read from a GPS data message, WN is a GPS week number, both as read from the GPS data message and after correction by t, and "AND" is a bitwise logical operation. 

FIG. 9 shows the GPS signals from, for example, 1 to 4 satellites, from which the week number WN is extracted at 20 and the leap second count LSC is extracted at 22. At box 23, the week number count is replaced in accordance with the software commands of FIG. 10. At step 30 of FIG. 10, the week number count WN is extracted from the GPS signal or signals. At step 32, the leap second count LSC is similarly extracted. At step 34, the command 

Replace t by 84.56+70.535* LSC is executed, and at step 36 the command 

Replace WN by t+(WN-t+512) AND 1023!-512 is executed. 

As FIG. 6 shows, the leap-second count is represented by the first 8 bits of word 9, subframe 4, frame 18. The leap-second count is signed, leaving 7 bits to represent the absolute value. Thus the absolute value of the count can go as high as 2.sup.7 =128. The sign bit considered, the leap-second count is restricted to the interval -128 through +127. The system proposed herein, employing the least-squares fit discussed above (in accordance with which the count of leap seconds is incremented about every 1.5 years), provides a solution to the GPS rollover problem for about 173 years. 

Thus there is provided in accordance with the invention a novel and highly effective solution to the 1999 GPS rollover problem. The solution provided in accordance with the invention is good for an extended period of time using no external real-time clocks, clock batteries or nonvolatile memories in the receivers, no user inputs, and no change in the format of GPS signals. While the invention in its preferred embodiment corrects a rollover problem inherent in the GPS system, it can be used in any other satellite navigation system having a similar rollover problem and indeed in any timing system that recycles at predetermined intervals equal to or longer than intervals between leap seconds. 

Many modifications of the preferred embodiment of the invention disclosed above will readily occur to those skilled in the art. The invention includes all such modifications as fall within the scope of the appended claims. 

 


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29-Dec-2003