The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that gives position and timing information in all weather situations, anywhere on or near the Earth when four or more GPS satellites have an unobstructed line of sight. Around the world, the system delivers essential capabilities to military, governmental, and commercial customers. The US government designed, maintains, and makes the system freely available to anybody with a GPS receiver. To solve the limitations of prior navigation systems, the United States launched the GPS project in 1973, using concepts from numerous predecessors, including a number of classified engineering design studies from the 1960s.

The system, which originally employed 24 satellites, was designed by the United States Department of Defense (DoD). It went into full operation in 1995. It was invented by Bradford Parkinson, Roger L. Easton, and Ivan A. Getting. Technological advances and increasing demands on the existing system have prompted initiatives to update the GPS system and adopt the next generation of GPS III satellites and the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). These developments were sparked by announcements from Vice President Al Gore and the White House in 1998.

The GPS III modernisation program was authorized by the United States Congress in 2000. Other systems, in addition to GPS, are in use or being developed. The Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) was developed concurrently with GPS, although it had insufficient global coverage until the mid-2000s. There is also the European Union’s proposed Galileo positioning system, India’s Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System, and China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System.

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