Global Positioning System - Online Article


The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the only fully functional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). Utilizing a constellation of at least 24 medium Earth orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, the system enables a GPS receiver to determine its location, speed/direction, and time.

Developed by the United States Department of Defense, it is officially named NAVSTAR GPS. The satellite constellation is managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. The cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$750 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites, and research and development. Despite these costs, GPS is free for civilian use as a public good.

GPS has become a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, and scientific uses. GPS also provides a precise time reference used in many applications including scientific study of earthquakes, and synchronization of telecommunications networks.

Method of Operation

A GPS receiver calculates its position by measuring the distance between itself and three or more GPS satellites. Measuring the time delay between transmission and reception of each GPS microwave signal gives the distance to each satellite, since the signal travels at a known speed near the speed of light. These signals also carry information about the satellites' location and general system health (known as almanac and ephemeris data). By determining the position of, and distance to, at least three satellites, the receiver can compute its position using trilateration. Receivers typically do not have perfectly accurate clocks and therefore track one or more additional satellites, using their atomic clocks to correct the receiver's own clock error.

Technical Description

System Segmentation

The current GPS consists of three major segments. These are the space segment (SS), a control segment (CS), and a user segment (US).

Space Segment

The space segment (SS) is composed of the orbiting GPS satellites, or Space Vehicles (SV) in GPS parlance. The GPS design originally called for 24 SVs to be distributed equally among six circular orbital planes. The orbital planes are centered on the Earth, not rotating with respect to the distant stars. The six planes have approximately 55° inclination (tilt relative to Earth's equator) and are separated by 60° right ascension of the ascending node (angle along the equator from a reference point to the orbit's intersection).

Orbiting at an altitude of approximately 20,200 kilometers (12,600 miles or 10,900 nautical miles; orbital radius of 26,600 km (16,500 mi or 14,400 NM)), each SV makes two complete orbits each sidereal day, so it passes over the same location on Earth once each day. The orbits are arranged so that at least six satellites are always within line of sight from almost everywhere on Earth's surface.

As of September 2007, there are 31 actively broadcasting satellites in the GPS constellation. The additional satellites improve the precision of GPS receiver calculations by providing redundant measurements. With the increased number of satellites, the constellation was changed to a nonuniform arrangement. Such an arrangement was shown to improve reliability and availability of the system, relative to a uniform system, when multiple satellites fail.

Control Segment

The flight paths of the satellites are tracked by US Air Force monitoring stations in Hawaii, Kwajalein, Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, along with monitor stations operated by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The tracking information is sent to the Air Force Space Command's master control station at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, which is operated by the 2d Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) of the United States Air Force (USAF). 2 SOPS contacts each GPS satellite regularly with a navigational update (using the ground antennas at Ascension Island, Diego Garcia, Kwajalein, and Colorado Springs). These updates synchronize the atomic clocks on board the satellites to within one microsecond and adjust the ephemeris of each satellite's internal orbital model. The updates are created by a Kalman filter which uses inputs from the ground monitoring stations, space weather information, and various other inputs.

User Segment

SiRFstar III receiver and integrated antenna from UK company Antenova. This measures just 49 x 9 x 4mm.The user's GPS receiver is the user segment (US) of the GPS system. In general, GPS receivers are composed of an antenna, tuned to the frequencies transmitted by the satellites, receiver-processors, and a highly-stable clock (often a crystal oscillator). They may also include a display for providing location and speed information to the user. A receiver is often described by its number of channels: this signifies how many satellites it can monitor simultaneously. Originally limited to four or five, this has progressively increased over the years so that, as of 2006, receivers typically have between twelve and twenty channels.

A typical OEM GPS receiver module, based on the SiRF Star III chipset, measuring 15×17 mm, and used in many products.GPS receivers may include an input for differential corrections, using the RTCM SC-104 format. This is typically in the form of a RS-232 port at 4,800 bit/s speed. Data is actually sent at a much lower rate, which limits the accuracy of the signal sent using RTCM. Receivers with internal DGPS receivers can outperform those using external RTCM data. As of 2006, even low-cost units commonly include Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) receivers.

Many GPS receivers can relay position data to a PC or other device using the NMEA 0183 protocol. NMEA 2000 is a newer and less widely adopted protocol. Both are proprietary and controlled by the US-based National Marine Electronics Association. References to the NMEA protocols have been compiled from public records, allowing open source tools like gpsd to read the protocol without violating intellectual property laws. Other proprietary protocols exist as well, such as the SiRF and MTK protocols. Receivers can interface with other devices using methods including a serial connection, USB or Bluetooth.

GPS Signals Anatomy of a GPS Signal

What each GPS satellite transmits can be generalized as falling into two categories: the ranging signals and the navigation messages. A ranging signal is used to measure the distance to the satellite. The navigation message provides the receiver with the orbital information to calculate the position of the satellite and is called ephemeris. The navigation message can also transmit ancillary information such as status information about the constellation and information about the current time.

Original GPS Signals

The original GPS design contains two ranging codes: the Coarse / Acquisition code or C/A, which is freely available to the public, and the restricted Precision code, or P-code, usually reserved for military applications.

Coarse / Acquisition code

The C/A code is a 1,023 bits long pseudorandom number (PRN) which, when transmitted at 1.023 megabits per second (Mbit/s), repeats every millisecond. Pseudorandom numbers contain an important characteristic; they are complex enough that they only match up, or strongly correlate, when they are exactly the same and are exactly aligned. Each satellite transmits a unique C/A PRN code, specially chosen because it will not correlate well with any other satellite's PRN code. In other words, the PRN codes are highly orthogonal to one another. This is a form of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), which allows the receiver to recognize multiple satellites on the same frequency, similar to how a person can recognize multiple peoples' voices talking in a crowded room based on each voice's timbre, accent, and tone.

Precision Code

The P-code is also a PRN, however each satellite's P-code PRN code is 6.1871 × 1012 bits long (6,187,100,000,000 bits) and only repeats once a week (it is transmitted at 10.23 Mbit/s). The extreme length of the P-code increases its correlation gain and eliminates any range ambiguity within the Solar System. However, the code is so long and complex it was believed that a receiver could not directly acquire and synchronize with this signal alone. It was expected that the receiver would first lock onto the relatively simple C/A code and then, after obtaining the current time and approximate position, synchronize with the P-code.

Whereas the C/A PRNs are unique for each satellite, the P-code PRN is actually a small segment of a master P-code approximately 2.35 × 1014 bits in length (235,000,000,000,000 bits) and each satellite repeatedly transmits its assigned segment of the master code.

To prevent unauthorized users from using or potentially interfering with the military signal through a process called spoofing, it was decided to encrypt the P-code. To that end the P-code was modulated with the W-code, a special encryption sequence, to generate the Y-code. The Y-code is what the satellites have been transmitting since the anti-spoofing module was set to the "on" state. The encrypted signal is referred to as the P(Y)-code.

The details of the W-code are kept secret, however it is theorized that it is applied to the P-code at approximately 20 kHz, which is a slower rate than that of the P-code itself. This has allowed companies to develop semi-codeless approaches for tracking the L2 signal, without knowledge of the W-code itself.

Navigation Message

In addition to the PRN ranging codes, a receiver needs to know detailed information about each satellite's position and the network. The GPS design has this information modulated on top of both the C/A and P(Y) ranging codes at 50 bit/s and calls it the Navigation Message.

The navigation message is made up of three major components. The first part contains the GPS date and time, plus the satellite's status and an indication of its health. The second part contains orbital information called ephemeris data and allows the receiver to calculate the position of the satellite. The third part, called the almanac, contains information and status concerning all the satellites; their locations and PRN numbers.

Whereas ephemeris information is highly detailed and considered valid for no more than 30 minutes, almanac information is more general and is considered valid for weeks. The almanac assists the receiver in determining which satellites to search for, and once the receiver picks up each satellite's signal in turn, it then downloads the ephemeris data directly from that satellite. A position fix using any satellite can not be calculated until the receiver has an accurate and complete copy of that satellite's ephemeris data.

The navigation message itself is constructed from a 1,500 bit frame, which is divided into five subframes of 300 bits each and transmitted at 50 bit/s (therefore each subframe requires 6 seconds to transmit).

  • Subframe 1 contains the GPS date and time, plus satellite status and health.
  • Subframes 2 and 3, when combined, contain the transmitting satellite's ephemeris data.
  • Subframes 4 and 5, when combined, contain 1/25th of the almanac; meaning 25 whole frames worth of data are required to complete the 15,000 bit almanac message. At this rate, 12.5 minutes are required to receive the entire almanac from a single satellite.


GPS broadcast signal

Frequency Information

For the ranging codes and navigation message to travel from the satellite to the receiver, they must be modulated onto a carrier frequency. In the case of the original GPS design, two frequencies are utilized; one at 1575.42 MHz, called L1; and a second at 1227.60 MHz, called L2. The C/A code is transmitted on the L1 frequency as a 1.023 MHz signal using a Bi-Phase Shift Key (BPSK) modulation technique. The P(Y)-code is transmitted on both the L1 and L2 frequencies as a 10.23 MHz signal using the same BPSK modulation, however the P(Y)-code carrier is in quadrature with the C/A carrier; meaning it is 90° out of phase.

Besides the redundancy and increased resistance to jamming, a critical benefit of having two frequencies transmitted from one satellite is the ability to directly measure, and therefore remove, the ionospheric delay error for that satellite. Without such a measurement, a GPS receiver must use a generic model or receive ionospheric corrections from another source (such as the Wide Area Augmentation System). An advance in the technology used on both the GPS satellites and the GPS receivers has made ionospheric delay the largest source of error in the signal. A receiver capable of performing this measurement can be significantly more accurate and is typically referred to as a dual frequency receiver.

Modernized GPS Signals

Having reached Fully Operational Capability on July 17, 1995, GPS had completed its original design goals. However, additional advances in technology and new demands on the existing system led to the effort to "modernize" the GPS system. Announcements from the Vice President and the White House in 1998 heralded the beginning of these changes and in 2000, the U.S. Congress reaffirmed the effort; referred to it as GPS III.

The project involves new ground stations and new satellites, with additional navigation signals for both civilian and military users, and aims to improve the accuracy and availability for all users. A goal of 2013 has been established with incentives offered to the contractors if they can complete it by 2011.


One of the first announcements was the addition of a new civilian-use signal, to be transmitted on a frequency other than the L1 frequency used for the Coarse Acquisition (C/A) signal. Ultimately, this became the L2C signal; so called because it is broadcast on the L2 frequency. Because it requires new hardware onboard the satellite, it is only transmitted by the so-called Block IIR-M and later design satellites. The L2C signal is tasked with providing improving accuracy of navigation, providing an easy to track signal, and acting as a redundant signal in case of localized interference.

Unlike the C/A code, L2C contains two distinct PRN code sequences to provide ranging information; the Civilian Moderate length code (called CM), and the Civilian Long length code (called CL). The CM code is 10,230 bits long, repeating every 20 mS. The CL code is 767,250 bits long, repeating every 1500 mS. Each signal is transmitted at 511,500 bits per second (bit/s), however they are multiplexed together to form a 1,023,000 bit/s signal.

CM is modulated with the CNAV Navigation Message (see below), where-as CL does not contain any modulated data and is called a dataless sequence. The long, dataless sequence provides for approximately 24 dB greater correlation (~250 times stronger) than L1 C/A-code. When compared to the C/A signal, L2C has 2.7 dB greater data recovery and 0.7 dB greater carrier-tracking, although its transmission power is 2.3 dB weaker.

CNAV Navigation Message

The CNAV data is an upgraded version of the original NAV navigation message. It contains higher precision representation and nominally more accurate data than the NAV data. The same type of information (Time, Status, Ephemeris, and Almanac) is still transmitted using the new CNAV format, however instead of using a frame / subframe architecture, it features a new pseudo-packetized format made up of 12-second 300-bit message packets.

In CNAV, two out of every four packets are ephemeris data and at least one of every four packets will include clock data, but the design allows for a wide variety of packets to be transmitted. With a 32-satellite constellation, and the current requirements of what needs to be sent, less than 75% of the bandwidth is used. And only a small fraction of the available packet types have been defined. This enables the system to grow and incorporate advances.

There are many important changes in the new CNAV message:

  • It uses Forward Error Correction (FEC) in a rate 1/2 convolution code, so while the navigation message is 25 bit/s, a 50 bit/s signal is transmitted.
  • The GPS week number is now represented as 13-bits, or 8192 weeks, and only repeats every 157.0 years. Meaning the next return to zero won't occur until the year 2137. This is larger compared to the L1 NAV message's use of a 10-bit week number, which returns to zero every 19.6 years.
  • There is a packet that contains a GPS to GNSS time offset. This allows for interoperability with other global time-transfer systems, such as Galileo and GLONASS, both of which are supported.
  • The extra bandwidth enables the inclusion of a packet for differential correction, to be used in a similar manner to satellite based augmentation systems and can be used to correct the L1 NAV clock data.
  • Every packet contains an alert flag, to be set if the satellite data can not be trusted. This means users will know within 6 seconds if a satellite is no longer usable. Such rapid notification is important for safety-of-life applications, such as aviation.
  • Finally, the system is designed to support 63 satellites, compared with 32 in the L1 NAV message.

L2C Frequency information

An immediate effect of having two civilian frequencies being transmitted is the civilian receivers can now directly measure the ionospheric error in the same way as dual frequency P(Y)-code receivers. However, if a user is utilizing the L2C signal alone, they can expect 65% more position uncertainty than with the L1 signal.

Military (M-code)

A major component of the modernization process is a new military signal. Called the Military code, or M-code, it was designed to further improve the anti-jamming and secure access of the military GPS signals.

Very little has been published about this new, restricted code. It contains a PRN code of unknown length transmitted at 5.115 Mbit/s. Unlike the P(Y)-code, the M-code is designed to be autonomous; meaning that a user can calculate their position using only the M-code signal. From the P(Y)-code's original design, users had to first lock onto the C/A code and then transfer the lock to the P(Y)-code. Later, direct-acquisition techniques were developed that allowed some users to operate autonomously with the P(Y)-code.

MNAV Navigation Message

A little more is known about the new navigation message, which is called MNAV. Similar to the new CNAV, this new MNAV is packeted instead of framed, allowing for very flexible data payloads. Also like CNAV it can utilize Forward Error Correction (FEC) and an advanced error detection (such as a CRC).

M-code Frequency Information

The M-code is transmitted in the same L1 and L2 frequencies already in use by the previous military code, the P(Y)-code. The new signal is shaped to place most of its energy at the edges (away from the existing P(Y) and C/A carriers).

In a major departure from previous GPS designs, the M-code is intended to be broadcast from a high-gain directional antenna, in addition to a full-Earth antenna. This directional antenna's signal, called a spot beam, is intended to be aimed at a specific region (several hundred kilometers in diameter) and increase the local signal strength by 20 dB, or approximately 100 times stronger. A side effect of having two antennas is that the GPS satellite will appear to be two GPS satellites occupying the same position to those inside the spot beam. While the whole Earth M-code signal is available on the Block IIR-M satellites, the spot beam antennas will not be deployed until the Block III satellites are deployed, tentatively in 2013.

An interesting side effect of having each satellite transmit four separate signals is that the MNAV can potentially transmit four different data channels, offering increased data bandwidth.

The modulation method is binary offset carrier, using a 10.23 MHz subcarrier against the 5.115 MHz code. This signal will have an overall bandwidth of approximately 24 MHz, with significantly separated sideband lobes. The sidebands can be used to improve signal reception.

L5, Safety of Life

Civilian, safety of life signal planned to be available with first GPS IIF launch (2008). Two PRN ranging codes are transmitted on L5: the in-phase code (denoted as the I5-code); and the quadra-phase code (denoted as the Q5-code). Both codes are 10,230 bits long and transmitted at 10.23 Mbit/s (1mS repetition). In addition, the I5 stream is modulated with a 10-bit Neuman-Hofman code that is clocked at 1 kHz and the Q5-code is modulated with a 20-bit Neuman-Hofman code that is also clocked at 1 kHz.

  • Improves signal structure for enhanced performance.
  • Higher transmitted power than L1/L2 signal (~3db, or twice as powerful).
  • Wider bandwidth provides a 10x processing gain.
  • Longer spreading codes (10x longer than C/A).
  • Uses the Aeronautical Radionavigation Services band.

L5 Navigation message

The L5 CNAV data includes SV ephemerids, system time, SV clock behavior data, status messages and time information, etc. The 50 bit/s data is coded in a rate 1/2 convolution coder. The resulting 100 symbols per second (sps) symbol stream is modulo-2 added to the I5-code only; the resultant bit-train is used to modulate the L5 in-phase (I5) carrier. This combined signal will be called the L5 Data signal. The L5 quadra-phase (Q5) carrier has no data and will be called the L5 Pilot signal.

L5 Frequency information

Broadcast on the L5 frequency (1176.45 MHz), which is an Aeronautical navigation band. Both the WRC-2000 added space signal component to this aeronautical band so aviation community can manage interference to L5 more effectively than L2.


Civilian use signal, broadcast on the L1 frequency (1575.42 MHz), which currently contains the C/A signal used by all current GPS users. The L1C will be available with first Block III launch, currently scheduled for 2013. Per the draft IS-GPS-800 specification, L1C was developed to serve as the baseline signal format for Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS).

The PRN codes are 10,230 bits long and transmitted at 1.023 Mbit/s. It uses both Pilot and Data carriers like L2C. As of 2007, the modulation technique is not finalized. Current candidates include BOC(1,1) and BOC(1,1) for data with TMBOC(1,1) for the pilot. The Time Modulated Binary Offset Carrier (TMBO) is BOC(1,1) for all except 4 of 33 cycles, when it switches to BOC(6,1).

  • Implementation will provide C/A code to ensure backward compatibility.
  • Assured of 1.5 dB increase in minimum C/A code power to mitigate any noise floor increase.
  • Data-less signal component pilot carrier improves tracking.
  • Enables greater civil interoperability with Galileo L1

CNAV-2 Navigation message

The L1C navigation message, called CNAV-2, is 1800 bits (including FEC) and is transmitted at 100 bit/s. It contains 9-bit time information, 600-bit ephemeris, and 274-bit packetized data payload.

Frequencies used by GPS


Band (Frequency) Phase Original Usage Modernized Usage
L1 (1575.42 MHz) In-Phase (I) Encrypted Precision P(Y) code Encrypted Precision P(Y) code and Military (M) code
Quadra-Phase (Q) Coarse-acquisition (C/A) code Coarse-acquisition (C/A) code and L1 Civilian code
L2 (1227.60 MHz) In-Phase (I) Encrypted Precision P(Y) code Encrypted Precision P(Y) code and Military (M) code
Quadra-Phase (Q) L2 Civilian code
L5 (1176.45 MHz) In-Phase (I) Safety-of-Life (SoL) Pilot signal.
Quadra-Phase (Q) Safety-of-Life (SoL) Data signal

Calculating Positions

Using the C/A code

To start off, the receiver picks which C/A codes to listen for by PRN number, based on the almanac information it has previously acquired. As it detects each satellite's signal, it identifies it by its distinct C/A code pattern, then measures the time delay for each satellite. To do this, the receiver produces an identical C/A sequence using the same seed number as the satellite. By lining up the two sequences, the receiver can measure the delay and calculate the distance to the satellite, called the pseudorange.

Next, the orbital position data, or ephemeris, from the Navigation Message is then downloaded to calculate the satellite's precise position. A more-sensitive receiver will potentially acquire the ephemeris data more quickly than a less-sensitive receiver, especially in a noisy environment.Knowing the position and the distance of a satellite indicates that the receiver is located somewhere on the surface of an imaginary sphere centered on that satellite and whose radius is the distance to it. Receivers can substitute altitude for one satellite, which the GPS receiver translates to a pseudorange measured from the center of the earth.

Locations are calculated not in three-dimensional space, but in four-dimensional spacetime, meaning a measure of the precise time-of-day is very important. The measured pseudoranges from four satellites have already been determined with the receiver's internal clock, and thus have an unknown amount of clock error. (The clock error or actual time does not matter in the initial pseudorange calculation, because that is based on how much time has passed between reception of each of the signals.) The four-dimensional point that is equidistant from the pseudoranges is calculated as a guess as to the receiver's location, and the factor used to adjust those pseudoranges to intersect at that four-dimensional point gives a guess as to the receiver's clock offset. With each guess, a geometric dilution of precision (GDOP) vector is calculated, based on the relative sky positions of the satellites used. As more satellites are picked up, pseudoranges from more combinations of four satellites can be processed to add more guesses to the location and clock offset. The receiver then determines which combinations to use and how to calculate the estimated position by determining the weighted average of these positions and clock offsets. After the final location and time are calculated, the location is expressed in a specific coordinate system, e.g. latitude/longitude, using the WGS 84 geodetic datum or a local system specific to a country.


Overlapping pseudoranges, represented as curves, are modified to yield the probable position

Using the P(Y) code

Calculating a position with the P(Y) signal is generally similar in concept, assuming one can decrypt it. The encryption is essentially a safety mechanism: if a signal can be successfully decrypted, it is reasonable to assume it is a real signal being sent by a GPS satellite. In comparison, civil receivers are highly vulnerable to spoofing since correctly formatted C/A signals can be generated using readily available signal generators. RAIM features do not protect against spoofing, since RAIM only checks the signals from a navigational perspective.

Accuracy and Error Sources

The position calculated by a GPS receiver requires the current time, the position of the satellite and the measured delay of the received signal. The position accuracy is primarily dependent on the satellite position and signal delay.

To measure the delay, the receiver compares the bit sequence received from the satellite with an internally generated version. By comparing the rising and trailing edges of the bit transitions, modern electronics can measure signal offset to within about 1% of a bit time, or approximately 10 nanoseconds for the C/A code. Since GPS signals propagate nearly at the speed of light, this represents an error of about 3 meters. This is the minimum error possible using only the GPS C/A signal.

Position accuracy can be improved by using the higher-chiprate P(Y) signal. Assuming the same 1% bit time accuracy, the high frequency P(Y) signal results in an accuracy of about 30 centimeters.

Electronics errors are one of several accuracy-degrading effects outlined in the table below. When taken together, autonomous civilian GPS horizontal position fixes are typically accurate to about 15 meters (50 ft). These effects also reduce the more precise P(Y) code's accuracy.

Source Effect
Ionospheric effects 5 meter
Ephemeris errors 2.5 meter
Satellite clock errors 2 meter
Multipath distortion 1 meter
Tropospheric effects 0.5 meter
Numerical errors 1 meter

Sources of User Equivalent Range Errors (UERE)

Techniques to improve accuracy

GPS Augmentations

Augmentation methods of improving accuracy rely on external information being integrated into the calculation process. There are many such systems in place and they are generally named or described based on how the GPS sensor receives the information. Some systems transmit additional information about sources of error (such as clock drift, ephemeris, or ionospheric delay), others provide direct measurements of how much the signal was off in the past, while a third group provide additional navigational or vehicle information to be integrated in the calculation process.

To meet the specific user requirements for positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT), a number of augmentations to the Global Positioning System (GPS) are available. An augmentation is any system that aids GPS by providing accuracy, integrity, reliability, availability, or any other improvement to positioning, navigation, and timing that is not inherently part of GPS itself. Such augmentations include, but are not limited to.

Nationwide Differential GPS System (NDGPS)

The NDGPS is a ground-based augmentation system operated and maintained by the Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and Federal Highway Administration, that provides increased accuracy and integrity of the GPS to users on land and water. Modernization efforts include the High Accuracy NDGPS (HA-NDGPS) system, currently under development, to enhance the performance and provide 10 to 15 centimeter accuracy throughout the coverage area. NDGPS is built to international standards, and over 50 countries around the world have implemented similar systems.

Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS)

The WAAS, a satellite-based augmentation system operated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), provides aircraft navigation for all phases of flight. Today, these capabilities are broadly used in other applications because their GPS-like signals can be processed by simple receivers without additional equipment. Using International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards, the FAA continues to work with other States to provide seamless services to all users in any region. Other ICAO standard space-based augmentation systems include: Europe's European Geostationary Navigation Overlay System (EGNOS), India's GPS and Geo-Augmented Navigation System (GAGAN), and Japan's Multifunction Transport Satellite (MTSAT) Satellite Augmentation System (MSAS). All of these international implementations are based on GPS. The FAA will improve the WAAS to take advantage of the future GPS safety-of-life signal and provide better performance and promote global adoption of these new capabilities.

Continuously Operating Reference Station (CORS)

The U.S. CORS network, which is managed by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, archives and distributes GPS data for precision positioning and atmospheric modeling applications mainly through post-processing. CORS is being modernized to support real-time users.

Global Differential GPS (GDGPS)

GDGPS is a high accuracy GPS augmentation system, developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to support the real-time positioning, timing, and orbit determination requirements of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) science missions. Future NASA plans include using the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) to disseminate via satellite a real-time differential correction message. This system is referred to as the TDRSS Augmentation Service Satellites (TASS).

International GNSS Service (IGS)

IGS is a network of over 350 GPS monitoring stations from 200 contributing organizations in 80 countries. Its mission is to provide the highest quality data and products as the standard for Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) in support of Earth science research, multidisciplinary applications, and education, as well as to facilitate other applications benefiting society. Approximately 100 IGS stations transmit their tracking data within one hour of collection.

There are other augmentation systems available worldwide, both government and commercial. These systems use differential, static, or real-time techniques.

Precise Monitoring

The accuracy of a calculation can also be improved through precise monitoring and measuring of the existing GPS signals in additional or alternate ways.

After SA, which has been turned off, the largest error in GPS is usually the unpredictable delay through the ionosphere. The spacecraft broadcast ionospheric model parameters, but errors remain. This is one reason the GPS spacecraft transmit on at least two frequencies, L1 and L2. Ionospheric delay is a well-defined function of frequency and the total electron content (TEC) along the path, so measuring the arrival time difference between the frequencies determines TEC and thus the precise ionospheric delay at each frequency.

Receivers with decryption keys can decode the P(Y)-code transmitted on both L1 and L2. However, these keys are reserved for the military and "authorized" agencies and are not available to the public. Without keys, it is still possible to use a codeless technique to compare the P(Y) codes on L1 and L2 to gain much of the same error information. However, this technique is slow, so it is currently limited to specialized surveying equipment. In the future, additional civilian codes are expected to be transmitted on the L2 and L5 frequencies. Then all users will be able to perform dual-frequency measurements and directly compute ionospheric delay errors.

A second form of precise monitoring is called Carrier-Phase Enhancement (CPGPS). The error, which this corrects, arises because the pulse transition of the PRN is not instantaneous, and thus the correlation (satellite-receiver sequence matching) operation is imperfect. The CPGPS approach utilizes the L1 carrier wave, which has a period 1000 times smaller than that of the C/A bit period, to act as an additional clock signal and resolve the uncertainty. The phase difference error in the normal GPS amounts to between 2 and 3 meters (6 to 10 ft) of ambiguity. CPGPS working to within 1% of perfect transition reduces this error to 3 centimeters (1 inch) of ambiguity. By eliminating this source of error, CPGPS coupled with DGPS normally realizes between 20 and 30 centimeters (8 to 12 inches) of absolute accuracy.

Relative Kinematic Positioning (RKP) is another approach for a precise GPS-based positioning system. In this approach, determination of range signal can be resolved to an accuracy of less than 10 centimeters (4 in). This is done by resolving the number of cycles in which the signal is transmitted and received by the receiver. This can be accomplished by using a combination of differential GPS (DGPS) correction data, transmitting GPS signal phase information and ambiguity resolution techniques via statistical tests-possibly with processing in real-time (real-time kinematic positioning, RTK).

GPS Time and Date

While most clocks are synchronized to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the Atomic clocks on the satellites are set to GPS time. The difference is that GPS time is not corrected to match the rotation of the Earth, so it does not contain leap seconds or other corrections which are periodically added to UTC. GPS time was set to match Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in 1980, but has since diverged. The lack of corrections means that GPS time remains at a constant offset (19 seconds) with International Atomic Time (TAI). Periodic corrections are performed on the on-board clocks to correct relativistic effects and keep them synchronized with ground clocks.

The GPS navigation message includes the difference between GPS time and UTC, which as of 2006 is 14 seconds. Receivers subtract this offset from GPS time to calculate UTC and specific time zone values. New GPS units may not show the correct UTC time until after receiving the UTC offset message. The GPS-UTC offset field can accommodate 255 leap seconds (eight bits) which, at the current rate of change of the Earth's rotation, is sufficient to last until the year 2330.

As opposed to the year, month, and day format of the Julian calendar, the GPS date is expressed as a week number and a day-of-week number. The week number is transmitted as a ten-bit field in the C/A and P(Y) navigation messages, and so it becomes zero again every 1,024 weeks (19.6 years). GPS week zero started at 00:00:00 UTC (00:00:19 TAI) on January 6, 1980 and the week number became zero again for the first time at 23:59:47 UTC on August 21, 1999 (00:00:19 TAI on August 22, 1999). To determine the current Gregorian date, a GPS receiver must be provided with the approximate date (to within 3,584 days) to correctly translate the GPS date signal. To address this concern the modernized GPS navigation messages use a 13-bit field, which only repeats every 8,192 weeks (157 years), and will not return to zero until near the year 2137.

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Shweta Sharma on 2009-04-07 22:06:39 wrote,

@Vinit, It's too large article.......