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By Mike Slater
/ Published January 19, 2023
U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Robert Wray, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander, gives the keynote speech on the Global Positioning System to attendees of the 70th meeting of the Swedish Radio Navigation Board in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 8, 2022. 2 SOPS is a component of Delta 8 – Satellite Communication and Navigational Warfare, and operates, maintains, and monitors the entire GPS constellation. Continuous GPS availability and unprecedented accuracy has resulted in widespread integration of the technology. (U.S. Space Force photo by 1st Lt. Salvatore Catanese)
U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Robert Wray, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander, gives the keynote speech on the Global Positioning System to seminar attendees for the 70th anniversary of the Swedish Radio Navigation Board in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 8, 2022. 2 SOPS is a component of Delta 8 – Satellite Communication and Navigational Warfare, and operates, maintains, and monitors the entire GPS constellation. Sweden uses GPS to control much of their infrastructure. (U.S. Space Force photo by 1st Lt. Salvatore Catanese)
U.S. Space Force Lt. Col. Robert Wray, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander, was the keynote speaker at a seminar for the Swedish Radio Navigation Board’s 70th anniversary in Stockholm, Sweden, Dec. 8, 2022.
The Swedish Radio Navigation Board (“Radionavigeringsnämnden”) is a network of authorities, companies, and individual members in the areas of positioning, navigation, and timing and its applications; the board provides a discussion forum for PNT matters. For their 70th anniversary meeting, the board hosted seminars on developments in the PNT arena and thoughts about the future development.
“I was humbled and honored to speak at this event,” said Wray. “In the past, civilian leaders of other government entities, like Department of Transportation, would speak at this event, so my representing the United States highlights one of the unique things about the Space Force and Global Positioning System mission, our responsibility for global civil support.”
Wray’s appearance marked the first time the U.S government spoke at the event since 2010; the board’s last two annual seminars were cancelled due to COVID-19. As the commander of 2 SOPS, a component of Space Delta 8 - Satellite Communication and Navigational Warfare, Wray oversees the operation, maintenance, and monitoring of the entire GPS constellation to ensure both the military and civilian PNT signals are accurate, trustworthy, and reliable.
Wray spoke about how GPS supports and is integrated into critical U.S. infrastructure. Everything from the control systems on dams to the national electrical grid requires GPS time-stamping; financial services and wastewater treatment plants also require GPS timing.
“I highlighted the many ways our critical infrastructure relies on GPS and Sweden appreciated that, because much of their critical infrastructure is also tied to GPS,” said Wray. “Many of their questions centered on, ‘Will GPS provide more robust capability in the future?’ and ‘Will GPS continue to be available?’, so I was glad to be able to give direct answers at that level, citing U.S. laws and policies that say GPS will remain available to users around the globe.”
Wray said one thing the audience was intrigued by was the fact GPS is funded by the USSF. Other readily available satellite navigation systems that provide PNT services on a global basis; like Galileo, operated by the European Union, and GLONASS, operated by the Russian Federation; are funded by civil authorities, while GPS is funded and operated by the U.S. military.
“It was unusual for them, even though we’ve been operating GPS for a while now, that the U.S. military funds and operates something that is such a widespread civil capability,” said Wray.
Wray hopes the USSF can continue to be an international ambassador, as 2 SOPS continues to build international partnerships with GPS user nations across the globe.