What is GPS?
It is a Global Positioning System
GPS, which stands for Global Positioning System, is a radio navigation system that allows land, sea, and airborne users to determine their exact location, velocity, and time 24 hours a day, in all weather conditions, anywhere in the world. The capabilities of today’s system render other well-known navigation and positioning “technologies”—namely the magnetic compass, the sextant, the chronometer, and radio-based devices—impractical and obsolete. GPS is used to support a broad range of military, commercial, and consumer applications.

24 GPS satellites (21 active, 3 spare) are in orbit at 10,600 miles above the earth. The satellites are spaced so that from any point on earth, four satellites will be above the horizon. Each satellite contains a computer, an atomic clock, and a radio. With an understanding of its own orbit and the clock, the satellite continually broadcasts its changing position and time. (Once a day, each satellite checks its own sense of time and position with a ground station and makes any minor correction.) On the ground, any GPS receiver contains a computer that "triangulates" its own position by getting bearings from three of the four satellites. The result is provided in the form of a geographic position - longitude and latitude - to, for most receivers, within a few meters.

If the receiver is also equipped with a display screen that shows a map, the position can be shown on the map. If a fourth satellite can be received, the receiver/computer can figure out the altitude as well as the geographic position. If you are moving, your receiver may also be able to calculate your speed and direction of travel and give you estimated times of arrival to specified destinations. Some specialized GPS receivers can also store data for use in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and map making.

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