Space

The International Space Station flying over a cloudy blue Earth

The Global Positioning System (GPS) 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:

Satellite above Earth Jason-1 Ocean Surface Topography Mission (includes a GPS receiver and a laser reflectometer for high precision orbit determination)
  • 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.

Video: On Target With GPS
(NASA Applications and Innovations, December 2010)

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Note: The main text of this page has not been updated since 2006.

“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. When all is said and done, the power and compass of this new tool will surely surpass what we can imagine now.”

Dr. Tom Yunck, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, USA

Benefits

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

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