Global Positioning System

The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS,[2] is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force.[3] It is one of the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that provides geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.[4] It does not require the user to transmit any data, and operates independently of any telephonic or Internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the GPS positioning information. It provides critical positioning capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. Although the United States government created, controls and maintains the GPS system, it is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.[5]

Global Positioning System (GPS)
Global Positioning System logo
Country/ies of originUnited States
Operator(s)US Space Force
TypeMilitary, civilian
StatusOperational
CoverageGlobal
Accuracy500–30 cm (16–0.98 ft)
Constellation size
Total satellites77
Satellites in orbit32 (operational 31)
First launchFebruary 22, 1978; 44 years ago (1978-02-22)
Total launches75
Orbital characteristics
Regime(s)6 MEO planes
Orbital height20,180 km (12,540 mi)
Other details
Cost$12 billion[1]
(initial constellation)
$750 million per year[1]
(operating cost)
Websitegps.gov
Artist's impression of GPS Block IIR satellite in Earth orbit
Civilian GPS receivers ("GPS navigation device") in a marine application
An Air Force Space Command Senior Airman runs through a checklist during Global Positioning System satellite operations.

The GPS project was started by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973. The first prototype spacecraft was launched in 1978 and the full constellation of 24 satellites became operational in 1993. Originally limited to use by the United States military, civilian use was allowed from the 1980s following an executive order from President Ronald Reagan after the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 incident.[6] Advances in technology and new demands on the existing system have now led to efforts to modernize the GPS and implement the next generation of GPS Block IIIA satellites and Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX).[7] Announcements from Vice President Al Gore and the Clinton Administration in 1998 initiated these changes, which were authorized by the U.S. Congress in 2000.

From the early 1990s, GPS positional accuracy was degraded by the United States government by a program called Selective Availability; that could selectively deny access to the system, or degrade the service at any time[8] as happened to the Indian military in 1999 during the Kargil War, however, this was discontinued on May 1, 2000, in accordance with a law signed by President Bill Clinton.[9] As a result, several countries have developed or are in the process of setting up other global or regional satellite navigation systems.

The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) was developed contemporaneously with GPS, but suffered from incomplete coverage of the globe until the mid-2000s.[10] GLONASS reception in addition to GPS can be combined in a receiver thereby allowing for additional satellites available to enable faster position fixes and improved accuracy, to within two meters (6.6 ft).[11][12]

China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System began global services in 2018, and finished its full deployment in 2020.[13] There are also the European Union Galileo navigation satellite system, and India's NavIC. Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a GPS satellite-based augmentation system to enhance GPS's accuracy in Asia-Oceania, with satellite navigation independent of GPS scheduled for 2023.[14]

When selective availability was lifted in 2000, GPS had about a five-meter (16 ft) accuracy. GPS receivers that use the L5 band have much higher accuracy, pinpointing to within 30 centimeters (11.8 in), while high-end users (typically engineering and land surveying applications) are able to have accuracy on several of the bandwidth signals to within two centimeters, and even sub-millimeter accuracy for long-term measurements.[9][15][16] Consumer devices, like smartphones, can be as accurate as to within 4.9 m (or better with assistive services like Wi-Fi positioning also enabled).[17] As of May 2021, 16 GPS satellites are broadcasting L5 signals, and the signals are considered pre-operational, scheduled to reach 24 satellites by approximately 2027.


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This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Global Positioning System, and is written by contributors. Text is available under a CC BY-SA 4.0 International License; additional terms may apply. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.