How GPS Works
So you can more easily understand some of the scientific principles that make GPS work, let’s discuss the basic features of the system. The principle behind GPS is the measurement of distance (or "range") between the receiver and the satellites. The satellites also tell us exactly where they are in their orbits above the Earth. It works something like this: If we know our exact distance from a satellite in space, we know we are somewhere on the surface of an imaginary sphere with radius equal to the distance to the satellite radius. If we know our exact distance from two satellites, we know that we are located somewhere on the line where the two spheres intersect. And, if we take a third measurement, there are only two possible points where we could be located. One of these is usually impossible, and the GPS receivers have mathematical methods of eliminating the impossible location.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
GPS was developed by the US Department of Defense to provide all-weather round-the-clock navigation capabilities for military ground, sea, and air forces. Since its implementation, GPS has also become an integral asset in numerous civilian applications and industries around the globe, including recreational uses (e.g. boating, aircraft, hiking), corporate vehicle fleet tracking, and surveying.
GPS employs 24 spacecraft in 20,200 km circular orbits inclined at 55 degrees. These spacecraft are placed in 6 orbit planes with four operational satellites in each plane. All launches have been successful except for one launch failure in 1981. The full 24-satellite constellation was completed on March 9, 1994.
GPS receivers use triangulation of the GPS satellites’ navigational signals to determine their location. The satellites provide two different signals that provide different accuracies. Coarse-acquisition (C/A) code is intended for civilian use, and is deliberately degraded. The accuracy using a typical civilian GPS receiver with C/A code is typically about 100 meters. The military’s Precision (P) code is not corrupted, and provides positional accuracy to within approximately 20 meters. Numerous on-line tutorials on how GPS works and its applications are available, including those at the . GPS satellites are controlled at the GPS Master Control Station (MCS) located at Falcon Air Force Base outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. The ground segment also includes four active-tracking ground antennas and five passive-tracking monitor stations.
GPS is a Satellite Navigation System
- GPS is funded by and controlled by the U. S. Department of Defense (DOD). While there are many thousands of civil users of GPS world-wide, the system was designed for and is operated by the U. S. military.
- GPS provides specially coded satellite signals that can be processed in a GPS receiver, enabling the receiver to compute position, velocity and time.
- Four GPS satellite signals are used to compute positions in three dimensions and the time offset in the receiver clock.
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