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Global Positioning System. Essay

2705 words - 11 pages

This paper examines the Global Positioning System (GPS), previously known as the Navistar Global Positioning System, and how it is becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life for ordinary people, and is also increasingly important for broad commercial applications such as automobile guidance systems, cartography, hikers, and the like. Into the future, the uses for GPS will be even more diverse.While its uses are many, at its root GPS provides users with accurate information about their position and velocity, as well as the time, anywhere in the world and in all weather conditions. This is of obvious importance for military purposes but also for every day life as well. This paper will look at the GPS's development, how it works, as well as its costs and benefits, and also the many uses of the GPS.GPS: What is it?GPS is a satellite based system that was designed by the US Department of Defense to "simplify and improve military and civilian navigation and positioning anywhere on earth." There are three components to the system: the space component, the control component, and the user component. Looking first at the space component, there are 24 satellites orbiting approximately 10,900 nautical miles above the earth. These satellites travel along one of six orbital planes, with each one making a complete orbit in slightly less than 12 hours. All the while, these satellites are sending streams of radio signals to Earth that contain information on their orbit, the condition/status of the satellite, and importantly, the exact time as determined by their onboard atomic clocks. The reliability and accuracy of the entire GPS rests on the accuracy of the clock, but given that the atomic clock is known to only lose or gain one second every 6 million years, itis safe to say that there is no need to worry about a loss of synchronization, at least in our lifetimes. In any case, scientists are constantly working to improve the efficiency of the clock. The orbit that the satellites can clearly be seen in the illustration to the leftThe second component is that of control. There are five monitoring stations located throughout the world, with the master control station (MCS) located at the Falcon Air Force Base in Colorado. From the MCS, information is processed and then sent to other monitoring stations "where satellite clock and orbital corrections can be made via ground antennas." The final component, and by far the most familiar to the typical layman, is the user device. This can assume many shapes and forms, but is generally a receiver that processes the information being sent by the satellites and allows the user to determine his position and velocity. "Equipped with a GPS receiver, it is possible to navigate or collect positions while stationary or moving and while located on the ground, in the air or over water." In sum, the way that the whole system works can be described as follows:GPS determines location by computing the difference between...

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