NOAA Leads International Effort to Ensure GNSS Accuracy; GISCI Creates Mentoring Program; Optech Partners with Google Lunar X PRIZE Team; and Trimble Acquires Crain Enterprises Inc.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admin-istration (NOAA) is leading an international effort to pinpoint the locations of more than 40 global positioning satellites in Earth orbit. According to Casey Brennan, program analyst for NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey, the agency will analyze 32 U.S. GPS satellites and 16 Russian Glonass satellites. It is a vital service to ensure the accuracy of positioning data that millions worldwide rely on every day for safe navigation and commerce.

For the next four years, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS) will serve as the Analysis Center Coordinator for the international Global Navigation Satellite Systems Service, a voluntary federation of more than 200 organizations that provide continuous global satellite tracking data.

On the first of the year, NOAA officially took the lead role in compiling and analyzing satellite orbit data from 10 analysis centers worldwide (five in the United States).

“For GPS receivers to provide accurate information, the precise location of positioning satellites as they orbit the Earth must first be determined,” said David Zilkoski, director of NOAA’s NGS. “NOAA looks forward to leading this international partnership to produce the highest quality satellite position data possible.”

The Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), which include the U.S. Global Positioning System, the Russian Glonass system and the future European Galileo system, are used for accurately determining the geographic position of any point on Earth. NOAA expects the final GPS orbits to reflect a 3–5 centimeter-level accuracy.

GISCI Creates Mentoring Program

The GIS Certification Institute (GISCI) created a first-of-its-kind mentoring program to link students and young professionals with the more than 1,850 certified GIS professionals (GISPs). The program supports GISCI’s mission to promote the GIS profession as a viable career path for aspiring geospatial technology professionals.

Through the program, GISPs can answer the questions many students and young professionals have when entering the GIS field. These include those related to the skills necessary to become a GIS professional, the makeup of a typical workweek and advice on preparing for an interview or internship.

Mentored individuals must be traditional students (undergraduate or above), nontraditional students or young professionals with one to two years of experience in the field. Mentoring relationships last for a minimum of six months, after which the GISP is eligible for one contribution point toward his or her recertification. While not a requirement, the mentor and student will ideally reside in the same geographic area.

The GISCI program is open to all current GISPs. Incoming GISPs are eligible to participate after certification has been granted. For more information on the GISCI certification program,

Optech Partners with Google Lunar X PRIZE Team

Last December, Optech Incorporated became a corporate partner with private commercial lunar enterprise Odyssey Moon Limited, the first official team of the Google Lunar X PRIZE competition. According to, the Google Lunar X PRIZE seeks to “create a global private race to the Moon that excites and involves people around the world and accelerates space exploration for the benefit of all humanity.” Small companies, groups of individuals and universities are encouraged to build, launch and explore the moon and beyond. To win the $20-million grand prize, a team must successfully soft land a privately funded spacecraft on the moon, rove on the lunar surface for a minimum of 500 meters, and transmit a specific set of video, images and data back to the Earth.

Odyssey Moon was founded by Robert Richards, co-founder of the International Space University, who has managed multiple spaceflight programs as director of Optech Space Technology. The inaugural Odyssey Moon mission will involve a unique small robotic lander designed to deliver scientific, exploration and commercial payloads to the surface of the moon.

Optech’s LiDAR technology is currently on the way toward Mars aboard the NASA Phoenix Mars Lander. LiDAR-based technologies for safe landing and rover navigation are expected to play an essential role in robotic and human lunar missions. Optech’s ILRIS-3D sensor is being used by an Odyssey Moon lunar rover prototype, the K-10, developed in collaboration with the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group. The sensor provides 3D terrain visualization for navigation and science.

Trimble Acquires Crain Enterprises Inc.

On Jan. 10, 2008, Trimble announced that it acquired privately held Crain Enterprises Inc. of Mound City, Ill., in an all-cash transaction. Founded in 1945, Crain manufactures accessories for the geomatics, surveying, mapping and construction industries with more than 500 dealers throughout North America.

Crain’s product lines include tripods, bipods, leveling rods, measuring rulers, prisms, prism and GPS poles, stream gauges, wire installation tools, as well as bags, packs and carrying cases for surveying and positioning instruments. The press release announcing the acquisition stated that “the purchase of Crain allows Trimble to provide the necessary accessories that can be offered as part of its positioning solutions used in the Engineering and Construction markets. In addition, Crain and Trimble will be able to leverage distribution channels.”

“Since accessories are often key to achieving total system performance, this acquisition will enable us to better satisfy user needs,” said Jim Veneziano, general manager of Trimble’s Construction Division.

“We are pleased to become a part of Trimble,” said Steve Crain, president and CEO of Crain Enterprises. “We have worked closely with Trimble over the years and we believe the acquisition is an ideal fit. The acquisition solidifies our best-in-class product position and gives us access to expand by leveraging Trimble’s worldwide distribution channel.”

Steve Crain and the staff of Crain Enterprises will join Trimble and operate as a wholly owned subsidiary as part of Trimble’s Engineering and Construction segment.