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GPS Satellites Help Us From Getting Lost

The Global Positioning System or often abbreviated to GPS consists of a constellation of 24 satellites orbiting about 20,000 km above the earth's surface. Each GPS satellite is moving constantly; making two orbits in less than a day's span. Initially it was used by the U.S for military purposes only. However later on, the GPS satellite system was opened to the public.

The GPS satellite works by transmitting data that determines its location and current time. The distance to the GPS satellites can be calculated by estimating the amount of time it takes for their signals to reach the receiver. GPS receivers take the information and use the process of triangulation to calculate a user's precise location.

In order to calculate a 2-dimensional position, a GPS receiver must be able to receive signals from at least three GPS satellites and with at least four GPS satellites; a GPS receiver can calculate its position in 3-dimensions. Once a user's position has been determined, the GPS satellite can obtain other data such as latitude, longitude and altitude while at the same time synchronizing its clock with the GPS.

Basically, GPS satellites provide global coverage 24 hours per day. Regardless of rain, fog, hurricane or sand storms, GPS satellites are not affected by any of them as it is an all-weather system. In the event of a solar eclipse, GPS satellites will also keep running as they are powered by solar energy and even have backup batteries onboard.

In addition, each GPS satellite is also equipped with small rocket boosters to enable them to stay in the correct orbit. GPS receivers require a clear view of the sky, so they are used only outdoors and they are often not efficient within forested areas or near tall buildings or mountains. However, they can receive signals from GPS satellites through clouds, glass and plastic as the signals travel by line of sight.

Although there are many advantages of using GPS devices, occasionally inaccuracies may occur as nothing is perfect. The reasons for the inaccuracies could be due to receiver clock errors, intentional degradation of the satellite signal or many others. Despite these small misgivings GPS devices used in tandem with signals from the GPS satellites have greatly improved various facets of human life.

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