A Brief History of GPS TechnologyGPS is used every day by consumers in a variety of different ways, for example in-car navigation being the most popular and common use of the technology.  Now it is even possible to use GPS navigation on a smart phone, or track people or property using GPS tracking devices.  But how did GPS come to exist?  Read on for an overview of the history of GPS and how it all started.

GPS Technology History

GPS (Global Positioning System) is originally a satellite navigation system invented by the U.S. Army and the Department of Defense.  They are the people that control the technology and financed the entire project.

GPS was developed in the context of the Cold War, and thus the basis was originally for military use.  However, it became better known as serving the civilian market. Using some special techniques, the accuracy of GPS can reach one meter, but the most common use (by non-professionals) it is about 50 meters.

Originally Developed for the Military

It was originally developed for military use, with the intention to help route guided missiles, however for exact precision it was necessary to know the starting point of the missile which is not always possible – for example when the missile is fired from a submarine. The GPS technology was originally conceived during a U.S. military program started in 1958 (one year after the launch of the first satellite).  The idea was to obtain the position of somewhere on earth using radio emissions from a satellite.

In 1960 the U.S. Navy engineers improved GPS further when they developed the Transit system. This was based on the “Doppler Effect” (used by radars) and was able to position a fixed point very precisely. 

The Project Halted Due to NASA Disaster

The Challenger shuttle explosion in January 1986 interrupted the project launch for civilian usage procedure, which led to a questioning of the project and the decision to use a specific launcher (DELTA 2) for other satellites.  New satellite launches were blocked from 1989 to 1994. 

GPS Becomes Available for Public Applications

However, once the system was made publically available, it soon became extremely popular for consumer applications. One of the first companies to take advantage of the technology was Garmin who started to develop in-car portable navigation devices (or sat navs).  Nowadays, GPS navigation is included on smart phones and the technology has a wide range of uses from Tsunami detection in the Pacific Ocean to tracking sports men and women and their fitness.

Article Written by Bob Simmons

Guest post written by Bob Simmons from the GPS Navigation DVD website – please check his website out if you want new GPS maps – click here for the home page.