The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver.
The GPS program provides critical capabilities to military, civil and commercial users around the world. In addition, GPS is the backbone for modernizing the global air traffic system.
The GPS project was developed in 1973 to overcome the limitations of previous navigation systems, integrating ideas from several predecessors, including a number of classified engineering design studies from the 1960s. GPS was created and realized by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and was originally run with 24 satellites. It became fully operational in 1994.
Advances in technology and new demands on the existing system have now led to efforts to modernize the GPS system and implement the next generation of GPS III satellites and Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX). Announcements from the Vice President and the White House in 1998 initiated these changes. In 2000, U.S. Congress authorized the modernization effort, referred to as GPS III.
In addition to GPS, other systems are in use or under development. The Russian GLObal NAvigation Satellite System (GLONASS) was in use by only the Russian military, until it was made fully available to civilians in 2007. There are also the planned European Union Galileo positioning system, Chinese Compass navigation system, and Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System.