If you’re reading this GPS guide on your tablet or mobile phone, odds are you are already using GPS. For example, let’s say you’re doing live order tracking, trying to find directions, or monitoring your food delivery. You guessed it.
You can thank GPS technology for this modern-day marvel. But what is GPS? It is an acronym for Global Positioning System, which involves a sophisticated network of satellites to triangulate pinpoint locations.
From complex missile guidance systems to NASA space shuttle navigation, the history of GPS is fascinating. This guide breaks down GPS’s humble origins to its modern-day pioneering innovations.
What Is GPS?
The history of American GPS dates back to the 1960s, with the American Navy needed to keep tabs on their nuclear submarines. And through a network of six satellites in the atmosphere’s orbit, the American Navy could use simple GPS to track their submarines.
However, at the height of the Cold War, America was tasked to keep pace with the space race with its Soviet rivals. In 1957, Russia made history with the first successful satellite launch into orbit – Sputnik.
With a successful satellite now in orbit, the Soviets could receive radio signals. This radio signal strengthened or weakened depending on the satellite’s proximity. You might know this phenomenon as The Doppler Effect.
In 1958, the Advanced Research Projects Agency pushed the GPS envelope by producing the prototype Global Positioning System, Transit. With the assistance of John Hopkins University, the first Transit satellite went into orbit in 1960.
GPS technology led to the atomic clock’s creation thanks to the Transit invention. The atomic clock unlocks GPS’s greatness by providing its trademark three-dimensional location tracking.
The DOD and Gps
With the dawn of the 1970s, The Department of Defense took an interest in GPS. In 1973, The DOD, with the help of the Air Force, took the best aspects of the Transit, Timation, and other GPS systems of that day, to form the present-day GPS.
With atomic clocks, these 24 satellites began routine Earth orbits. Then, building upon the American Navy’s GPS model, in 1978, The DOD inaugurated the NAVSTAR satellite. But it was in 1993 that the 20+ NAVSTAR system went into 100% operation.
President Reagan and Gps
With the burgeoning success of the NAVSTAR system, its usage and potential drew the attention of the Executive Branch. In 1983, President Reagan approved its usage for the commercial airline industry. And as the 1980s ended, GPS became a household name. GPS first became available for cell phones in 1999.
As DOD’s NAVSTAR evolved, the need for the original Transit system waned. Finally, in 1996, the Transit system was officially retired in favor of the present-day Global Positioning System.
Today, GPS tracks shipping fleets, provides car and human navigation and even tracks animals. Constantly, this technology is evolving to meet military and civilian needs.
One such GPS technology is GNSS. Used for precise RF radio signals locations with a system of 16 satellites. You can read this page on GNSS simulators to learn more.
Following Up on What Is Gps
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