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Civilian applications of GPS – Space

GPS Satellites II, IIR, IIF and III pictured over the Earth.

GPS Satellites II, IIR, IIF and III pictured over the Earth.

The many commercial uses of GPS.

The many commercial uses of GPS.

The Global Positioning System is revolutionizing and revitalizing the way nations operate in space, from guidance systems for crewed vehicles to the management, tracking, and control of communication satellite constellations, to monitoring the Earth from space.

Benefits of using GPS include:

 - Navigation solutions -- providing high precision orbit determination, and minimum ground control crews, with existing space-qualified GPS units.
 - Attitude solutions -- replacing high cost on-board attitude sensors with low-cost multiple GPS antennae and specialized algorithms.
 - Timing solutions -- replacing expensive spacecraft atomic clocks with low-cost, precise time GPS receivers.
 - Constellation control -- providing single point-of-contact to control for the orbit maintenance of large numbers of space vehicles such as telecommunication satellites.
 - Formation flying -- allowing precision satellite formations with minimal intervention from ground crews.
 - Virtual platforms -- providing automatic "station-keeping" and relative position services for advanced science tracking maneuvers such as interferometry.
 - Launch vehicle tracking -- replacing or augmenting tracking radars with higher precision, lower-cost GPS units for range safety and autonomous flight termination.

"GPS is transforming the way nations operate in space -- from guidance systems for the International Space Station's return vehicle to the control of communication satellites to entirely new forms of Earth remote sensing," said Dr. Tom Yunck, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. "When all is said and done, the power and compass of this new tool will surely surpass what we can imagine now."


 - Providing high precision positioning with minimum ground control.
 - Replacing high cost, and high mass, on-board sensors.

Operated by Air Force Space Command's 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base, located east of Colorado Springs, Colo., the GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation and timing services worldwide as a free service provided by the U.S. Air Force, seven days a week, 24 hours a day. The GPS constellation is healthy, stable and robust with 12 GPS IIRs, seven GPS IIR-Ms, and 12 GPS IIF satellites on orbit providing precise global positioning, navigation, and timing services to users around the globe.

The latest generation of GPS IIF satellites provides improved signals to support both the warfighter and the growing civilian needs of a global economy. Featuring a new third civil signal -- L5 -- that benefits commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications, the GPS IIF series provides improved accuracy through advanced atomic clocks, and a longer design life than previous GPS satellites on orbit.

The Space and Missile Systems Center, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, Calif., is the Air Force's center of acquisition excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems and space situational awareness capabilities.