HomeAbout UsFact SheetsDisplay

Global Positioning System

GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM

GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM

Mission
The Global Positioning System is a constellation of orbiting satellites that provides navigation data to military and civilian users all over the world. The system is operated and controlled by the 50th Space Wing, located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo.

Features
GPS satellites orbit the earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location and velocity. The signals are so accurate, time can be figured to within a millionth of a second, velocity within a fraction of a mile per hour and location to within 100 feet. Receivers have been developed for use in aircraft, ships and land vehicles, as well as for hand carrying.

GPS provides 24-hour navigation services including:
· Extremely accurate, three-dimensional location information (latitude, longitude and altitude), velocity (speed and direction) and precise time
· A worldwide common grid that is easily converted to any local grid
· Passive all-weather operations
· Continuous real-time information
· Support to an unlimited number of users and areas
· Support to civilian users at a slightly less accurate level than cryptographically keyed users

The GPS constellation is designed and operated as a 24-satellite system, consisting of six orbital planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane.

The Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle is used to launch GPS satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., into nearly 11,000-mile circular orbits. While circling the earth, the systems transmit signals on two different L-band frequencies. Their design life is 7.5 years for Block IIA, IIR, and IIR-M (but many are lasting longer than 10 - 12 years) and 12 years for Block IIF.

Background 
The GPS Master Control Station, operated by the 50th Space Wing's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (SOPS) at Schriever is responsible for monitoring and controlling the GPS satellite constellation. The GPS-dedicated ground system consists of six USAF dedicated monitor stations and four dedicated ground antennas located around the world. The monitor stations use GPS receivers to passively track the navigation signals on all satellites. In 2007, GPS added 10 more shared monitor stations (part of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency -- NGA network of monitor stations) increasing the overall accuracy of the system to all users. Information from the monitor stations is processed at the master control station and used to update the satellites' navigation messages.

The master control station crew sends updated navigation information to GPS satellites through ground antennas using an S-band signal. The ground antennas are also used to transmit commands to satellites and to receive state-of-health data (telemetry).

The GPS Program Office is working to enhance many of the capabilities provided by the current satellite based position and navigation equipment. In April, 2014 the pre-operational broadcast of navigation messages began for additional civil signals (L2C and L5). Applications such as mapping, aerial refueling and rendezvous, geodetic surveys, and search and rescue operations will benefit from these enhancements.

GPS capabilities were put to the test during the United States' involvement in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Allied troops relied heavily on GPS to navigate the featureless Arabian Desert. During operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom, GPS contributions increased significantly. During OIF, the GPS satellite constellation allowed the delivery of 5,500 GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions with pinpoint precision (to about 10 feet) and with minimal collateral damage. This was almost one-fourth of the total 29,199 bombs and missiles coalition forces released against Iraqi targets. GPS continues to fill a crucial role in air, ground and sea operations guiding countless service members and equipment to ensure they are on time and on target.

Air Force Space Command's Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., acts as the executive agent for the Department of Defense lead for acquiring GPS satellites and user equipment.

General Characteristics
Primary Function:
Positioning, navigation, timing and velocity information worldwide
Primary Contractors: Block II/IIA, Rockwell International (Boeing North American); Block IIR, Lockheed Martin; Block IIR-M, Lockheed Martin; Block IIF, Boeing North American
Power Plant: Solar panels generating 800 watts; Block IIF panels generate 2450 watts
Weight: Block IIA, 3,670 pounds (1,816 kilograms); Block IIR/M, 4,480 pounds (2,217 kilograms); Block IIF, 3,758 pounds (1,705 kilograms)
Height: Block IIA, 136 inches (3.4 meters); Block IIR, 70 inches (1.7 meters); Block IIF, 98 inches (2.4 meters)
Width (includes wingspan): Block IIA, 208.6 inches (5.3 meters); Block IIR, 449 inches (11.4 meters); Block IIF, approximately 116 feet (35.5 meters)
Design life: Block II/IIA, 7.5 years; Block IIR, 10 years; Block IIR-M (modernized) 10 years; Block IIF, 12 years
Date of First Launch: 1978
Launch vehicle:  EELV (beginning with Block F)
Date Constellation Operational: April 1995 (at full operational capacity)

Navigation Information Service 
The U.S. Coast Guard operates and maintains the Navigation Information Service for civilian GPS users. It can be reached at 703-313-5900, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

(Current as of November 2015)

Point of Contact: Air Force Space Command, Public Affairs Office; 150 Vandenberg, Suite 1105; Peterson AFB, Colo. 80914-4500;
DSN 692-3731 or (719) 554-3731

Engage

Twitter
The Installation Resilience Operations Center prototype is a game-changing solution for enhancing base security, em… https://t.co/ATHhejDoQJ
Twitter
“It’s important that you will be able to lead through complex challenges,” @GenCQBrownJr said. “I really want to ch… https://t.co/UI86usPVtO
Twitter
VCSAF Gen David W. Allvin visited various @AFResearchLab facilities to see how the 711th Human Performance Wing is… https://t.co/F5tpk0Mabc
Twitter
Invisible Wounds: Signs and Symptoms The Invisible Wounds Initiative, an @AFW2 Support Program, leads in creating… https://t.co/4SeYhlQuua
Twitter
Maggie Gee and Hazel Ying Lee were two of the first Chinese-American aviators to join the Women Airforce Service Pi… https://t.co/txl43oLLRs
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: Listen to SrA Francis Andrew, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, tell his story as one of the 'Lost Boys of Sudan.…
Twitter
#ICYMI Aircraft loaded with #COVID19 supplies left @Travis60AMW, California, bound for India. This shipment was jus… https://t.co/YdYFniZyok
Twitter
“While there are a lot of people who have done great things in the #AirForce, we wanted to recognize diversity and… https://t.co/bTH2aP5emk
Twitter
“It is a real honor, and I wish I could be there in person,”@GenCQBrownJr said during his acceptance speech. “I’d r… https://t.co/DH5Ou832K5
Twitter
RT @RealAFOSI: 1/ OSI's Guam based Detachment 602 recently spent time strengthening relationships throughout the Commonwealth of the North…
Twitter
RT @grandslamwing: Mobilizing to assist - anywhere, anytime. Members from #TeamAUAB aboard a C-17 from @TeamCharleston took off to assist t…
Twitter
RT @AirNatlGuard: .@HiAirGuard Airmen deployed to California to participate in exercise Sentinel Response 2021 alongside @CalGuard Airmen a…
Twitter
.@GenCQBrownJr and @cmsaf_official discuss the best ways to help Airmen's talent to bloom. #Airmen #Questionshttps://t.co/GGDHJkiOOb
Twitter
Airmen at the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas, demonstrated an autonomous machine solution for an @AFWERX innovation init… https://t.co/5ZGnnOPfYi
Twitter
During a quarterly senior leader review, @KesselRunAF & @USAF_ACC leaders agreed the Air Operations Center Weapon S… https://t.co/FnXQYIiG86
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: #PublicServiceRecognitionWeek starts today! This is a chance to acknowledge the civil servants who dedicate themselves t…
Twitter
#ICYMI - The Air Force Employee Assistance Program has expanded the available resources available to #AirForce civi… https://t.co/t1eC1eRPfb
Twitter
RT @PACAF: #Airmen from PACAF conducted bilateral training with @JASDF_PAO (Koku-Jieitai) to enhance joint deterrence and response capabili…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,346,527
Follow Us