Last updated

The Timation satellites were conceived, developed, and launched by the United States Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. beginning in 1964. The concept of Timation was to broadcast an accurate time reference for use as a ranging signal to receivers on the ground. On 31 May 1967, the Timation-1 satellite was launched. This was followed by the Timation-2 satellite launch in 1969. The results of this program and Air Force Project 621B formed the basis for the Global Positioning System (GPS). The Navy's contribution to the GPS program continued to be focused on ever more accurate clocks. [1]



There is a historical connection between accurate time keeping, navigation, and the Navy. In 1714, the British government passed the Longitude Act (see longitude prize) to create an incentive to solve the problem of navigation at sea. The solution, developed by John Harrison, was an accurate clock which could compare local time to Greenwich, England time. To this day, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the successor of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), is the reference time for the planet, and in the United States, the official time for the Department of Defense (DoD) is kept by the United States Navy at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. This is kept in synchronization with the official civilian time reference maintained by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and contributes to the International Atomic Time. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Global Positioning System</span> American satellite-based radionavigation service

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 provides 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. It does not require the user to transmit any data, and operates independently of any telephonic or Internet reception, though these technologies can enhance the usefulness of the GPS positioning information. It provides critical positioning capabilities to military, civil, and commercial users around the world. Although the United States government created, controls and maintains the GPS system, it is freely accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Galileo (satellite navigation)</span> Global navigation satellite system

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 political and military authorities 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. A fully encrypted higher-precision service is available for free to government-authorized users. Galileo is intended to provide horizontal and vertical position measurements within 1 m precision. Galileo is also to provide a new global search and rescue (SAR) function as part of the MEOSAR system.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Navigation</span> Process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another

Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, marine navigation, aeronautic navigation, and space navigation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Transit (satellite)</span> Satellite navigation system

The Transit system, also known as NAVSAT or NNSS, was the first satellite navigation system to be used operationally. The radio navigation system was primarily used by the U.S. Navy to provide accurate location information to its Polaris ballistic missile submarines, and it was also used as a navigation system by the Navy's surface ships, as well as for hydrographic survey and geodetic surveying. Transit provided continuous navigation satellite service from 1964, initially for Polaris submarines and later for civilian use as well. In the Project DAMP Program, the missile tracking ship USAS American Mariner also used data from the satellite for precise ship's location information prior to positioning its tracking radars.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celestial navigation</span> Navigation using astronomical objects to determine position

Celestial navigation, also known as astronavigation, is the practice of position fixing using stars and other celestial bodies that enables a navigator to accurately determine their actual current physical position in space without having to rely solely on estimated positional calculations, commonly known as "dead reckoning", made in the absence of satellite navigation or other similar modern electronic or digital positioning means.

Time and frequency transfer is a scheme where multiple sites share a precise reference time or frequency. The technique is commonly used for creating and distributing standard time scales such as International Atomic Time (TAI). Time transfer solves problems such as astronomical observatories correlating observed flashes or other phenomena with each other, as well as cell phone towers coordinating handoffs as a phone moves from one cell to another.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Radio clock</span> Type of clock which self-synchronizes its time using dedicated radio transmitters

A radio clock or radio-controlled clock (RCC), and often (incorrectly) referred to as an atomic clock is a type of quartz clock or watch that is automatically synchronized to a time code transmitted by a radio transmitter connected to a time standard such as an atomic clock. Such a clock may be synchronized to the time sent by a single transmitter, such as many national or regional time transmitters, or may use the multiple transmitters used by satellite navigation systems such as Global Positioning System. Such systems may be used to automatically set clocks or for any purpose where accurate time is needed. RC clocks may include any feature available for a clock, such as alarm function, display of ambient temperature and humidity, broadcast radio reception, etc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Satellite navigation</span> Use of satellite signals for geo-spatial positioning

A satellite navigation or satnav system is a system that uses satellites to provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning. It allows satellite navigation devices to determine their location to high precision 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. The signals also allow the electronic receiver to calculate the current local time to a 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nuclear weapons delivery</span> Type of explosive arms

Nuclear weapons delivery is the technology and systems used to place a nuclear weapon at the position of detonation, on or near its target. Several methods have been developed to carry out this task.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quasi-Zenith Satellite System</span> Navigation satellites

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 developed 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 12 January 2018, and officially started on 1 November 2018. A satellite navigation system independent of GPS is planned for 2023 with 7 satellites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roger L. Easton</span> American scientist

Roger Lee Easton, Sr. was an American physicist and state representative who was the principal inventor and designer of the Global Positioning System, along with Ivan A. Getting and Bradford Parkinson.

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 Airports Authority of India (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 the Indian airspace.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GPS Block III</span> Current generation of GPS satellites

GPS Block III consists of the first ten GPS III satellites, which will be used to keep the Navstar Global Positioning System operational. Lockheed Martin designed, developed and manufactured the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) and all ten Block III satellites. The first satellite in the series was launched in December 2018.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System</span> Satellite navigation system

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 where some of the NavIC satellites are visible but the position is not always computable with assured accuracy. The system currently consists of a constellation of eight satellites, with two additional satellites on ground as stand-by.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marine chronometer</span> Clock used on ships to aid in navigation

A marine chronometer is a precision timepiece that is carried on a ship and employed in the determination of the ship's position by celestial navigation. It is used to determine longitude by comparing Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), or in the modern world its successor Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), and the time at the current location found from observations of celestial bodies. When first developed in the 18th century, it was a major technical achievement, as accurate knowledge of the time over a long sea voyage was vital for effective navigation, lacking electronic or communications aids. The first true chronometer was the life work of one man, John Harrison, spanning 31 years of persistent experimentation and testing that revolutionized naval navigation and enabling the Age of Discovery and colonialism to accelerate.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">GPS satellite blocks</span> Generations of GPS satellites

GPS satellite blocks are the various production generations of the Global Positioning System (GPS) used for satellite navigation. The first satellite in the system, Navstar 1, was launched on 22 February 1978. The GPS satellite constellation is operated by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS) of Space Delta 8, United States Space Force.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atomic clock</span> Extremely accurate clock

An atomic clock is a clock that measures time by monitoring the resonant frequency of atoms. It is based on atoms having different energy levels. Electron states in an atom are associated with different energy levels, and in transitions between such states they interact with a very specific frequency of electromagnetic radiation. This phenomenon serves as the basis for the International System of Units' (SI) definition of a second:

The second, symbol s, is the SI unit of time. It is defined by taking the fixed numerical value of the caesium frequency, , the unperturbed ground-state hyperfine transition frequency of the caesium 133 atom, to be 9192631770 when expressed in the unit Hz, which is equal to s−1.

USA-66, also known as GPS IIA-1, GPS II-10 and GPS SVN-23, was an American navigation satellite which formed part of the Global Positioning System. It was the first of nineteen Block IIA GPS satellites to be launched, and was the oldest GPS satellite still in operation until its decommissioning on 25 January 2016.

USA-91, also known as GPS IIA-11, GPS II-20 and GPS SVN-37, was an American navigation satellite which formed part of the Global Positioning System. It was the eleventh of nineteen Block IIA GPS satellites to be launched.

USA-126, also known as GPS IIA-17, GPS II-26 and GPS SVN-40, is an American navigation satellite which forms part of the Global Positioning System. It was the seventeenth of nineteen Block IIA GPS satellites to be launched.


  1. R.L. Beard; J. Murray & J.D. White (1986). "GPS Clock Technology and the Navy PTTI programs at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory" (PDF). pp. 39, 40. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2009.PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .
  2. "NIST Time". Nist. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 10 June 2013.PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain .