Concept of GPS

A GPS receiver calculates its position by precisely timing the signals sent by GPS satellites high above the Earth. Each satellite continually transmits messages that include

  • the time the message was transmitted
  • satellite position at time of message transmission

The receiver uses the messages it receives to determine the transit time of each message and computes the distance to each satellite using the speed of light. Each of these distances and satellites' locations defines a sphere. The receiver is on the surface of each of these spheres when the distances and the satellites' locations are correct. These distances and satellites' locations are used to compute the location of the receiver using the navigation equations. This location is then displayed, perhaps with a moving map display or latitude and longitude; elevation or altitude information may be included, based on height above the geoid

Basic GPS measurements yield only a position, and neither speed nor direction. However, most GPS units can automatically derive velocity and direction of movement from two or more position measurements. The disadvantage of this principle is that changes in speed or direction can only be computed with a delay, and that derived direction becomes inaccurate when the distance travelled between two position measurements drops below or near the random error of position measurement. GPS units can use measurements of the Doppler shift of the signals received to compute velocity accurately. More advanced navigation systems use additional sensors like a compass or an inertial navigation system to complement GPS.

Concept of GPS

The current GPS consists of three major segments. These are the space segment (SS), a control segment (CS), and a user segment (US). The U.S. Air Force develops, maintains, and operates the space and control segments. GPS satellites broadcast signals from space, and each GPS receiver uses these signals to calculate its three-dimensional location (latitude, longitude, and altitude) and the current time.

The space segment is composed of 24 to 32 satellites in medium Earth orbit and also includes the payload adapters to the boosters required to launch them into orbit. The control segment is composed of a master control station, an alternate master control station, and a host of dedicated and shared ground antennas and monitor stations. The user segment is composed of hundreds of thousands of U.S. and allied military users of the secure GPS Precise Positioning Service, and tens of millions of civil, commercial, and scientific users of the Standard Positioning Service.

The control segment is composed of

  1. a master control station (MCS),
  2. an alternate master control station,
  3. four dedicated ground antennas and
  4. six dedicated monitor stations

The user segment is composed of hundreds of thousands of U.S. and allied military users of the secure GPS Precise Positioning Service, and tens of millions of civil, commercial and scientific users of the Standard Positioning Service. In general, GPS receivers are composed of an antenna, tuned to the frequencies transmitted by the satellites, receiver-processors, and a highly stable clock. They may also include a display for providing location and speed information to the user