What is a Global Positioning System (GPS)?
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The Global Positioning System, or GPS, is the only fully-functional satellite navigation system. A constellation of more than two dozen GPS satellites broadcasts precise timing signals by radio to GPS receivers, allowing them to accurately determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) in any weather, day or night, anywhere on Earth.GPS has become a vital global utility, indispensable for modern navigation on land, sea, and air around the world, as well as an important tool for map-making, and land surveying. GPS also provides an extremely precise time reference, required for telecommunications and some scientific research, including the study of earthquakes.United States Department of Defense developed the system, officially named NAVSTAR GPS (Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging GPS), and the satellite constellation is managed by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base. Although the cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$400 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites, GPS is available for free use in civilian applications as a public good.In late 2005, the first in a series of next-generation Global Positioning System satellites was added to the constellation, offering several new capabilities, including a second civilian GPS signal called L2C for enhanced accuracy and reliability. In the coming years, additional next-generation satellites will increase coverage of L2C and add a third and fourth civilian signal to the system, as well as advanced military capabilities.
The Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS), available since August 2000, increases the accuracy of GPS signals to within 2 meters (6 ft)