History of Global Positioning System

History of Global Positioning System owes its origin to the history of navigation and exploration. Navigators and explorers, from time to time, always searched for a system which would enable them to know their positions on this vast world. So the emergence of GPS or Global Positioning System was mainly as a navigational system. Later, its application has influenced various fields like tracking, surveying, communication system, defense etc.


On 26 th June, 1993, the launching of 24 Navstar satellites was completed by U.S Air Force. The network of this 24 satellites is called Global Positioning System . This Navstar satellites are designed by Rockwell Int'l. Initially the operation started in 8 th December, 1993, but full functioning started in 27 th April 1995.


The various types of technologies that have contributed in the development of the Global Positioning System are as enlisted below:

  • Satellite launching and controlling techniques
  • Solid state devices
  • Microchips
  • Correlation circuitry
  • Time-difference-of-arrival technologies
  • Microwave communication
  • Radio navigation.

The success of the emergence of Global Positioning System can be referred to the invention of “Atomic Clock” which is precise to a billion of seconds

This helps to study the relativity and Einstein's physics. Actually it is basic nature of man to know “where are we?” and “where are we going?” The Sextant and Chronometer days are past now. Global Positioning System is the call of the day.


The following table will depict the chronological development/ history of Global Positioning System :



Date/Year

Historical development of GPS

22 nd February, 1978

Launching of NAVSTAR 1

13 th May, 1978

Launching of NAVSTAR 2

6 th October, 1978

Launching of NAVSTAR 3

11 th December

Launching of NAVSTAR 4

9 th February, 1980

Launching of NAVSTAR 5

26 th April, 1980

Launching of NAVSTAR 6

18 th December, 1981

NAVSTAR 7 lost due to launch failure

14 th July, 1983

NAVSTAR 8

13 th June, 1984

NAVSTAR 9

8 th September, 1984

NAVSTAR 10

9 th October, 1985

NAVSTAR 11

14 th February, 1989

NAVSTAR 14

10 th June, 1989

NAVSTAR 13

17 th August, 1989

NAVSTAR 16

21 st October, 1989

NAVSTAR 19

11 th December, 1989

NAVSTAR 17

24 th January, 1990

NAVSTAR 18

25 th March, 1990

NAVSTAR 20

2 nd August, 1990

NAVSTAR 21

10 th October, 1990

NAVSTAR 15

26 th November, 1990

NAVSTAR 23

3 rd July, 1991

NAVSTAR 24

23 rd February, 1992

NAVSTAR 25

10 th April, 1992

NAVSTAR 28

7 th July, 1992

NAVSTAR 26

10 th August, 1992

Satellite carries GPS to provide a reference between the satellite and the center of the earth.

9 th September, 1992

NAVSTAR 27

22 nd November, 1992

NAVSTAR 32

18 th December, 1992

NAVSTAR 29

3 rd February, 1993

NAVSTAR 22

30 th March, 1993

NAVSTAR 31

13 th May, 1993

NAVSTAR 37

26 th June, 1993

NAVSTAR 39

9 th July, 1993

U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approves use of GPS by civil operators.

30 th August, 1993

NAVSTAR 35

26 th October, 1993

NAVSTAR 34

8 th December, 1993

Initial Operational Capacity (IOC) achieved.

21 st December, 1993

Increasing civilian uses encouraged.

17 th February, 1994

FAA announces that GPS is now operational and is an integrated part of US air traffic control system.

17 th July, 1994

U.S. Air Force announced that NAVSTAR system officially reached full operational capability.

30 th August, 1994

NAVSTAR 36

1th June, 1995

European Space Agency issues announced to provide independent GPS augmentation under European control for civil use.

28 th March, 1996

NAVSTAR 33

17 th January, 1997

A Delta rocket carrying the NAVSTAR satellite GPS IIR-1 explodes seven seconds after liftoff.

27 th February, 1997

U.S. Department of Transport and Defense announced that civil users will have interrupted access to the carrier.

3oth March, 1998

U.S. Department of Transport announced that NAVSTAR system will provide two additional navigational signals for civil use.


Thus, History of Global Positioning System is quite clear from the above table which conveys the message that GPS is not a mere technological innovation, it developed with time according to the changing need of human kind.