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A satellite navigation or satnav system is a system that uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. It allows small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude/elevation) to high precision (within a few centimeters to metres) using time signals transmitted along a line of sight by radio from satellites. The system can be used for providing position, navigation or for tracking the position of something fitted with a receiver (satellite tracking). The signals also allow the electronic receiver to calculate the current local time to high precision, which allows time synchronisation. These uses are collectively known as Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT). Satnav systems operate independently of any telephonic or internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the positioning information generated.
A satellite navigation system with global coverage may be termed a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). As of September 2020 [update] , the United States' Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS), China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and the European Union's Galileo are fully operational GNSSs. Japan's Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a (US) GPS satellite-based augmentation system to enhance the accuracy of GPS, with satellite navigation independent of GPS scheduled for 2023. The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) plans to expand to a global version in the long term.
Global coverage for each system is generally achieved by a satellite constellation of 18–30 medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites spread between several orbital planes. The actual systems vary, but use orbital inclinations of >50° and orbital periods of roughly twelve hours (at an altitude of about 20,000 kilometres or 12,000 miles).
GNSS systems that provide enhanced accuracy and integrity monitoring usable for civil navigation are classified as follows:
By their roles in the navigation system, systems can be classified as:
As many of the global GNSS systems (and augmentation systems) use similar frequencies and signals around L1, many "Multi-GNSS" receivers capable of using multiple systems have been produced. While some systems strive to interoperate with GPS as well as possible by providing the same clock, others do not.
Ground based radio navigation is decades old. The DECCA, LORAN, GEE and Omega systems used terrestrial longwave radio transmitters which broadcast a radio pulse from a known "master" location, followed by a pulse repeated from a number of "slave" stations. The delay between the reception of the master signal and the slave signals allowed the receiver to deduce the distance to each of the slaves, providing a fix.
The first satellite navigation system was Transit, a system deployed by the US military in the 1960s. Transit's operation was based on the Doppler effect: the satellites travelled on well-known paths and broadcast their signals on a well-known radio frequency. The received frequency will differ slightly from the broadcast frequency because of the movement of the satellite with respect to the receiver. By monitoring this frequency shift over a short time interval, the receiver can determine its location to one side or the other of the satellite, and several such measurements combined with a precise knowledge of the satellite's orbit can fix a particular position. Satellite orbital position errors are caused by radio-wave refraction, gravity field changes (as the Earth's gravitational field is not uniform), and other phenomena. A team, led by Harold L Jury of Pan Am Aerospace Division in Florida from 1970-1973, found solutions and/or corrections for many error sources. Using real-time data and recursive estimation, the systematic and residual errors were narrowed down to accuracy sufficient for navigation.
Part of an orbiting satellite's broadcast includes its precise orbital data. Originally, the US Naval Observatory (USNO) continuously observed the precise orbits of these satellites. As a satellite's orbit deviated, the USNO sent the updated information to the satellite. Subsequent broadcasts from an updated satellite would contain its most recent ephemeris.
Modern systems are more direct. The satellite broadcasts a signal that contains orbital data (from which the position of the satellite can be calculated) and the precise time the signal was transmitted. Orbital data include a rough almanac for all satellites to aid in finding them, and a precise ephemeris for this satellite. The orbital ephemeris is transmitted in a data message that is superimposed on a code that serves as a timing reference. The satellite uses an atomic clock to maintain synchronization of all the satellites in the constellation. The receiver compares the time of broadcast encoded in the transmission of three (at sea level) or four (which allows an altitude calculation also) different satellites, measuring the time-of-flight to each satellite. Several such measurements can be made at the same time to different satellites, allowing a continual fix to be generated in real time using an adapted version of trilateration: see GNSS positioning calculation for details.
Each distance measurement, regardless of the system being used, places the receiver on a spherical shell at the measured distance from the broadcaster. By taking several such measurements and then looking for a point where they meet, a fix is generated. However, in the case of fast-moving receivers, the position of the signal moves as signals are received from several satellites. In addition, the radio signals slow slightly as they pass through the ionosphere, and this slowing varies with the receiver's angle to the satellite, because that changes the distance through the ionosphere. The basic computation thus attempts to find the shortest directed line tangent to four oblate spherical shells centred on four satellites. Satellite navigation receivers reduce errors by using combinations of signals from multiple satellites and multiple correlators, and then using techniques such as Kalman filtering to combine the noisy, partial, and constantly changing data into a single estimate for position, time, and velocity.
The original motivation for satellite navigation was for military applications. Satellite navigation allows precision in the delivery of weapons to targets, greatly increasing their lethality whilst reducing inadvertent casualties from mis-directed weapons. (See Guided bomb). Satellite navigation also allows forces to be directed and to locate themselves more easily, reducing the fog of war.
Now a global navigation satellite system, such as Galileo, is used to determine users location and the location of other people or objects at any given moment. The range of application of satellite navigation in the future is enormous, including both the public and private sectors across numerous market segments such as science, transport, agriculture etc.
The ability to supply satellite navigation signals is also the ability to deny their availability. The operator of a satellite navigation system potentially has the ability to degrade or eliminate satellite navigation services over any territory it desires.
In order of first launch year:
First launch year: 1978
The United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) consists of up to 32 medium Earth orbit satellites in six different orbital planes. The exact exact number of satellites varies as older satellites are retired and replaced. Operational since 1978 and globally available since 1994, GPS is the world's most utilized satellite navigation system.
First launch year: 1982
The formerly Soviet, and now Russian, Global'naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema, (GLObal NAvigation Satellite System or GLONASS), is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides a civilian radionavigation-satellite service and is also used by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces. GLONASS has full global coverage since 1995 and with 24 satellites.
First launch year: 2000
BeiDou started as the now-decommissioned Beidou-1, an Asia-Pacific local network on the geostationary orbits. The second generation of the system BeiDou-2 became operational in China in December 2011.The BeiDou-3 system is proposed to consist of 30 MEO satellites and five geostationary satellites (IGSO). A 16-satellite regional version (covering Asia and Pacific area) was completed by December 2012. Global service was completed by December 2018. On 23 June 2020, the BDS-3 constellation deployment is fully completed after the last satellite was successfully launched at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
First launch year: 2011
The European Union and European Space Agency agreed in March 2002 to introduce their own alternative to GPS, called the Galileo positioning system. Galileo became operational on 15 December 2016 (global Early Operational Capability, EOC).At an estimated cost of €10 billion, the system of 30 MEO satellites was originally scheduled to be operational in 2010. The original year to become operational was 2014. The first experimental satellite was launched on 28 December 2005. Galileo is expected to be compatible with the modernized GPS system. The receivers will be able to combine the signals from both Galileo and GPS satellites to greatly increase the accuracy. The full Galileo constellation will consist of 24 active satellites, which is expected by 2021 and at a substantially higher cost. The main modulation used in Galileo Open Service signal is the Composite Binary Offset Carrier (CBOC) modulation.
The NavIC or NAVigation with Indian Constellation is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The government approved the project in May 2006, and consists of a constellation of 7 navigational satellites. km around it. An Extended Service Area lies between the primary service area and a rectangle area enclosed by the 30th parallel south to the 50th parallel north and the 30th meridian east to the 130th meridian east, 1,500–6,000 km beyond borders. A goal of complete Indian control has been stated, with the space segment, ground segment and user receivers all being built in India.3 of the satellites are placed in the Geostationary orbit (GEO) and the remaining 4 in the Geosynchronous orbit (GSO) to have a larger signal footprint and lower number of satellites to map the region. It is intended to provide an all-weather absolute position accuracy of better than 7.6 meters throughout India and within a region extending approximately 1,500
The constellation was in orbit as of 2018, and the system was available for public use in early 2018.NavIC provides two levels of service, the "standard positioning service", which will be open for civilian use, and a "restricted service" (an encrypted one) for authorized users (including military). There are plans to expand NavIC system by increasing constellation size from 7 to 11.
The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) is a four-satellite regional time transfer system and enhancement for GPS covering Japan and the Asia-Oceania regions. QZSS services were available on a trial basis as of January 12, 2018, and were started in November 2018. The first satellite was launched in September 2010.An independent satellite navigation system (from GPS) with 7 satellites is planned for 2023.
|Owner||China||European Union||Russia||United States||India||Japan|
|Coding||CDMA||CDMA||FDMA & CDMA||CDMA||CDMA||CDMA|
|Altitude||21,150 km (13,140 mi)||23,222 km (14,429 mi)||19,130 km (11,890 mi)||20,180 km (12,540 mi)||36,000 km (22,000 mi)||32,600 km (20,300 mi) –|
39,000 km (24,000 mi)
|Period||12.63 h (12 h 38 min)||14.08 h (14 h 5 min)||11.26 h (11 h 16 min)||11.97 h (11 h 58 min)||23.93 h (23 h 56 min)||23.93 h (23 h 56 min)|
|Rev./S. day||17/9 (1.888...)||17/10 (1.7)||17/8 (2.125)||2||1||1|
(24 MEO 3 IGSO 1 GSO)
5 in orbit validation
2 GSO planned 20H1
1 in commissioning
|By design: |
24 active + 6 backup
26 in orbit
|24 by design|
1 in flight tests
24 by design
5 GSO MEO
|4 operational (3 GSO, 1 GEO)|
7 in the future
|Frequency||1.561098 GHz (B1)|
1.589742 GHz (B1-2)
1.20714 GHz (B2)
1.26852 GHz (B3)
|1.559–1.592 GHz (E1) |
1.164–1.215 GHz (E5a/b)
|1.593–1.610 GHz (G1)|
1.237–1.254 GHz (G2)
1.189–1.214 GHz (G3)
|1.563–1.587 GHz (L1)|
1.215–1.2396 GHz (L2)
1.164–1.189 GHz (L5)
2.492028 GHz (S)
|1.57542 GHz (L1C/A,L1C,L1S)|
1.22760 GHz (L2C)
1.17645 GHz (L5,L5S)
1.27875 GHz (L6)
|Status||Operational||Operating since 2016|
|2m – 4m||0.3m - 5m (no DGPS or WAAS)||1m (Public)|
Using multiple GNSS systems for user positioning increases the number of visible satellites, improves precise point positioning (PPP) and shortens the average convergence time.The signal-in-space ranging error (SISRE) in November 2019 were 1.6 cm for Galileo, 2.3 cm for GPS, 5.2 cm for GLONASS and 5.5 cm for BeiDou when using real-time corrections for satellite orbits and clocks.
GNSS augmentation is a method of improving a navigation system's attributes, such as accuracy, reliability, and availability, through the integration of external information into the calculation process, for example, the Wide Area Augmentation System, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, the Multi-functional Satellite Augmentation System, Differential GPS, GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation (GAGAN) and inertial navigation systems.
Doppler Orbitography and Radio-positioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) is a French precision navigation system. Unlike other GNSS systems, it is based on static emitting stations around the world, the receivers being on satellites, in order to precisely determine their orbital position. The system may be used also for mobile receivers on land with more limited usage and coverage. Used with traditional GNSS systems, it pushes the accuracy of positions to centimetric precision (and to millimetric precision for altimetric application and also allows monitoring very tiny seasonal changes of Earth rotation and deformations), in order to build a much more precise geodesic reference system.
The two current operational low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite phone networks are able to track transceiver units with accuracy of a few kilometers using doppler shift calculations from the satellite. The coordinates are sent back to the transceiver unit where they can be read using AT commands or a graphical user interface.This can also be used by the gateway to enforce restrictions on geographically bound calling plans.
The Global Positioning System (GPS), originally Navstar GPS, is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. It is one of the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) that provide geolocation and time information to a GPS receiver anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. Obstacles such as mountains and buildings can block the relatively weak GPS signals.
Galileo is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) that went live in 2016, created by the European Union through the European Space Agency (ESA), operated by the European Union Agency for the Space Programme (EUSPA), headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic, with two ground operations centres in Fucino, Italy, and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. The €10 billion project is named after the Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. One of the aims of Galileo is to provide an independent high-precision positioning system so European nations do not have to rely on the US GPS, or the Russian GLONASS systems, which could be disabled or degraded by their operators at any time. The use of basic (lower-precision) Galileo services is free and open to everyone. The higher-precision capabilities will be available for free. Galileo is intended to provide horizontal and vertical position measurements within 1-metre precision, and better positioning services at higher latitudes than other positioning systems. Galileo is also to provide a new global search and rescue (SAR) function as part of the MEOSAR system.
GLONASS is a Russian space-based satellite navigation system operating as part of a radionavigation-satellite service. It provides an alternative to GPS and is the second navigational system in operation with global coverage and of comparable precision.
Global air-traffic management (GATM) is a concept for satellite-based Communication, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management. The Federal Aviation Administration and the International Civil Aviation Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, established GATM standards to keep air travel safe and effective in increasingly crowded worldwide air space. Efforts are being made worldwide to test and implement new technologies that will allow GATM to efficiently support air traffic control.
The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) is a satellite based augmentation system (SBAS) developed by the European Space Agency and EUROCONTROL on behalf of the European Commission. Currently, it supplements the GPS by reporting on the reliability and accuracy of their positioning data and sending out corrections. The system will supplement Galileo in a future version.
The BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) is a Chinese satellite navigation system. It consists of two separate satellite constellations. The first BeiDou system, officially called the BeiDou Satellite Navigation Experimental System and also known as BeiDou-1, consisted of three satellites which, beginning in 2000, offered limited coverage and navigation services, mainly for users in China and neighboring regions. BeiDou-1 was decommissioned at the end of 2012. On 23 June 2020, the final BeiDou satellite was successfully launched, the launch of the 55th satellite in the Beidou family. The third iteration of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System promises to provide global coverage for timing and navigation, offering an alternative to Russia's GLONASS, the European Galileo positioning system, and America's GPS.
Assisted GNSS (A-GNSS) is a GNSS augmentation system that often significantly improves the startup performance—i.e., time-to-first-fix (TTFF)—of a global navigation satellite system (GNSS). A-GNSS works by providing the necessary data to the device via a radio network instead of the slow satellite link, essentially "warming up" the receiver for a fix. When applied to GPS, it is known as assisted GPS or augmented GPS. Other local names include A-GANSS for Galileo and A-Beidou for BeiDou.
A Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is an enhancement to the Global Positioning System (GPS) which provides improved location accuracy, in the range of operations of each system, from the 15-metre (49 ft) nominal GPS accuracy to about 1–3 centimetres (0.39–1.18 in) in case of the best implementations.
Real-time kinematic positioning (RTK) is the application of surveying to correct for common errors in current satellite navigation (GNSS) systems. It uses measurements of the phase of the signal's carrier wave in addition to the information content of the signal and relies on a single reference station or interpolated virtual station to provide real-time corrections, providing up to centimetre-level accuracy. With reference to GPS in particular, the system is commonly referred to as carrier-phase enhancement, or CPGPS. It has applications in land survey, hydrographic survey, and in unmanned aerial vehicle navigation.
The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), also known as Michibiki (みちびき), is a four-satellite regional time transfer system and a satellite-based augmentation system development by the Japanese government to enhance the United States-operated Global Positioning System (GPS) in the Asia-Oceania regions, with a focus on Japan. The goal of QZSS is to provide highly precise and stable positioning services in the Asia-Oceania region, compatible with GPS. Four-satellite QZSS services were available on a trial basis as of January 12, 2018, and officially started on November 1, 2018. A satellite navigation system independent of GPS is planned for 2023 with 7 satellites.
The GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation (GAGAN) is an implementation of a regional satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) by the Government of India. It is a system to improve the accuracy of a GNSS receiver by providing reference signals. The AAI's efforts towards implementation of operational SBAS can be viewed as the first step towards introduction of modern Communication, navigation and surveillance/Air Traffic Management system over Indian airspace.
The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), with an operational name of NavIC, is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system that provides accurate real-time positioning and timing services. It covers India and a region extending 1,500 km (930 mi) around it, with plans for further extension. An extended service area lies between the primary service area and a rectangle area enclosed by the 30th parallel south to the 50th parallel north and the 30th meridian east to the 130th meridian east, 1,500–6,000 km (930–3,730 mi) beyond borders. The system currently consists of a constellation of seven satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.
Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receivers, using the GPS, GLONASS, Galileo or BeiDou system, are used in many applications. The first systems were developed in the 20th century, mainly to help military personnel find their way, but location awareness soon found many civilian applications.
In the field of geodesy, Receiver Independent Exchange Format (RINEX) is a data interchange format for raw satellite navigation system data. This allows the user to post-process the received data to produce a more accurate result — usually with other data unknown to the original receiver, such as better models of the atmospheric conditions at time of measurement.
GPS Block IIF, or GPS IIF is an interim class of GPS (satellite), which are used to keep the Navstar Global Positioning System operational until the GPS Block IIIA satellites become operational. They were built by Boeing, to be operated by the United States Air Force being launched by United Launch Alliance (ULA), using Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV). They are the final component of the Block II GPS constellation to be launched. On 5 February 2016, the final satellite in the GPS Block IIF was successfully launched, completing the block.
A software GNSS receiver is a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) receiver that has been designed and implemented using software-defined radio.
Precise Point Positioning (PPP) is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) positioning method that calculates very precise positions, with errors as small as a few centimeters under good conditions. PPP is a combination of several relatively sophisticated GNSS position refinement techniques that can be used with near-consumer-grade hardware to yield near-survey-grade results. PPP uses a single GNSS receiver, unlike standard RTK methods, which use a temporarily fixed base receiver in the field as well as a relatively nearby mobile receiver. PPP methods overlap somewhat with DGNSS positioning methods, which use permanent reference stations to quantify systemic errors.
Inside GNSS is an international controlled circulation trade magazine owned by Gibbons Media and Research LLC. It covers space-based positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) technology for engineers, designers and policy-makers of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). In the United States GNSS is identified mainly with the government-operated Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS). Insidegnss.com is a site of online news, events, digital newsletters and webinars, and archived magazine articles.