Auto Accessories: The GPS Device

The GPS system is best thought of as a space-based global navigation system. It offers both time and location information no matter what the weather. The system is maintained by the US government and was originally created by the US Department of Defense. The system functions by offering satellite signals that are coded and can be processed through a GPS receiver. The GPS receiver can then calculate position, speed and time.

Originally, GPS was designed for military purposes, but it has since branched out into becoming a dual-use technology, meaning it has civilian purposes, too. It has become quite popular nowadays, and it is used by civilians in applications like emergency services, cellular telephony, navigation in cars to help people with driving directions, tectonics, recreation like waymarking, and mapmaking. The military also uses it today for purposes like reconnaissance and search and rescue. The following will cover the broad aspects of GPS, from its development to the makers behind the technology.

Early Navigation

The concept of navigation has been with mankind since primitive times, since mankind needed to figure out how to get to specific destinations. The earliest mariners had a technique for navigation: They would just follow the coastline closely to prevent themselves from becoming lost; when they discovered that they could navigate through using the stars, they were able to sail into the open seas. Major navigational developments over time before the GPS device was invented include the compass as well as the sextant. A compass informed travelers where they were going because of the needle always pointing to true North, while a sextant employed adjustable mirrors to measure the bodies in the sky.

GPS Development

GPS is the most exact navigation system ever invented because it can show a person’s position on the planet in any weather and in any location. The GPS system was first launched in 1978, yet its development goes back all the way to the 1960s when the Aerospace Corporation started Project 57. Project 57 was started to determine if space systems had any military applications. When the Air Force took over the Project, they changed its name to Project 621B and continued the mission of the Project, which was to find out navigation coordinates from the signals of satellites. 1983 was when the NAVSTAR system was revealed to the general public, which was unavoidable because one of its satellites shot down a commercial airplane. This system was the start of the current GPS system, and between 1989 and 1997, 28 satellites were released to make a GPS system that was complete.

How GPS Devices Work

The acronym GPS actually relates to the two parts of the system, which are the receivers and the satellites. How it works is a GPS satellite transfers signals to the receiver that is on the ground; this receiver communicates its location and its time. The receiver takes these signals from the satellite and then calculates their velocity and location. In turn, these calculations give the operator of the receiver the precise coordinates of their position and maybe even directions to their wanted destination. The GPS satellites are maintained by the US Air Force, and there are a total of 24 satellites working at all times. The Air Force has to depend on stations on the ground to manage the 24 satellites.

GPS Uses Today

GPS is widely used today, both by the military as well as civilians. Since its completion in the 1990s, GPS devices have proved to be helpful to the military in their applications. For example, the military uses GPS to guide its troops over large expanses of lands, such as deserts. GPS was used prominently in Operation Desert Storm. As a result, GPS has become very significant for basically all weapons systems as well as all military operations.

GPS is also widely used in everyday, civilian life. GPS has applications in the arena of rescue operations. For example in 2002, GPS was relied on to free some miners who were trapped in Somerset, Pennsylvania. Corporations who work in the surveying, construction and mapping industries rely on GPS heavily in their operations. For instance, when the tunnel underneath the English Channel was constructed, different crews began digging from opposite ends of the Channel. GPS was utilized to confirm their positions and ensure that they ended up meeting in the middle.

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