A satellite navigation or sat nav system is a system of satellites that provide autonomous geo-spatial positioning with global coverage. It allows small electronic receivers to determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) to within a few metres using time signals transmitted along a line-of-sight by radio from satellites. Receivers calculate the precise time as well as position, which can be used as a reference for scientific experiments. A satellite navigation system with global coverage may be termed a global navigation satellite system or GNSS.
As of April 2013, only the United States NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian GLONASS are fully globally operational GNSSs. China is in the process of expanding its regional Beidou navigation system into the global Compass navigation system by 2020. The European Union's Galileo positioning system is a GNSS in initial deployment phase, scheduled to be fully operational by 2020 at the earliest. India is also building the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System which will be operational by 2014. Several countries including France and Japan are in the process of developing regional navigation systems.
Global coverage for each system is generally achieved by a satellite constellation of 20–30 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 (12,000 mi)).
Satellite navigation systems that provide enhanced accuracy and integrity monitoring usable for civil navigation are classified as follows:
Early predecessors were the ground based DECCA, LORAN, GEE and Omega radio navigation systems, which used terrestrial longwave radio transmitters instead of satellites. These positioning systems broadcast a radio pulse from a known "master" location, followed by repeated pulses from a number of "slave" stations. The delay between the reception and sending of the signal at the slaves was carefully controlled, allowing the receivers to compare the delay between reception and the delay between sending. From this the distance to each of the slaves could be determined, 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 traveled on well-known paths and broadcast their signals on a well known 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.
Part of an orbiting satellite's broadcast included its precise orbital data. In order to ensure accuracy, the US Naval Observatory (USNO) continuously observed the precise orbits of these satellites. As a satellite's orbit deviated, the USNO would send the updated information to the satellite. Subsequent broadcasts from an updated satellite would contain the most recent accurate information about its orbit.
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. The orbital data 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 with the time of reception measured by an internal clock, thereby measuring the time-of-flight to the 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 centered 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 for hitherto impossible 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.
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.
The United States' Global Positioning System (GPS) consists of up to 32 medium Earth orbit satellites in six different orbital planes, with the exact number of satellites varying as older satellites are retired and replaced. Operational since 1978 and globally available since 1994, GPS is currently the world's most utilized satellite navigation system.
The formerly Soviet, and now Russian, Global'naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (Global Navigation Satellite System), or GLONASS, was a fully functional navigation constellation in 1995. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it fell into disrepair, leading to gaps in coverage and only partial availability. It was recovered and restored in 2011.
China has indicated they intend to expand their regional navigation system, called Beidou or Big Dipper, into a global navigation system by 2020 a program that has been called Compass in China's official news agency Xinhua. The Compass system is proposed to utilize 30 medium Earth orbit satellites and five geostationary satellites. A 10-satellite regional version (covering Asia and Pacific area) was completed by December 2011.
The European Union and European Space Agency agreed in March 2002 to introduce their own alternative to GPS, called the Galileo positioning system. At an estimated cost of EUR 3.0 billion, the system of 30 MEO satellites was originally scheduled to be operational in 2010. The estimated year to become operational is 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. Galileo is now not expected to be in full service until 2020 at the earliest and at a substantially higher cost.
|Political entity||United States||Russian Federation||China||European Union|
|Orbital height||20,180 km (12,540 mi)||19,130 km (11,890 mi)||21,150 km (13,140 mi)||23,220 km (14,430 mi)|
|Period||11.97 hours (11 h 58 m)||11.26 hours (11 h 16 m)||12.63 hours (12 h 38 m)||14.08 hours (14 h 5 m)|
per sidereal day
|At least 24||31, including
1 in preparation
2 on maintenance
1 on tests
|5 geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites,
30 medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites
|4 test bed satellites in orbit,
22 operational satellites budgeted
|Frequency||1.57542 GHz (L1 signal)
1.2276 GHz (L2 signal)
|Around 1.602 GHz (SP)
Around 1.246 GHz (SP)
|1.561098 GHz (B1)
1.589742 GHz (B1-2)
1.20714 GHz (B2)
1.26852 GHz (B3)
|1.164–1.215 GHz (E5a and E5b)
1.260–1.300 GHz (E6)
1.559–1.592 GHz (E2-L1-E11)
CDMA in preparation
|15 satellites operational,
20 additional satellites planned
Chinese regional network to be expanded into the global Compass navigation system.
The Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) is an autonomous regional satellite navigation system being developed by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) which would be under the total control of Indian government. The government approved the project in May 2006, with the intention of the system to be completed and implemented by 2014. It will consist of a constellation of 7 navigational satellites. All the 7 satellites will be placed in the Geostationary orbit (GEO) 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 km around it. A goal of complete Indian control has been stated, with the space segment, ground segment and user receivers all being built in India.
The Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS), is a proposed three-satellite regional time transfer system and enhancement for GPS covering Japan. The first demonstration satellite was launched in September 2010.
Examples of augmentation systems include the Wide Area Augmentation System, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, the Multi-functional Satellite Augmentation System, Differential GPS, and Inertial Navigation Systems.
The two current operational low Earth orbit 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.
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