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This Week GPS Turns 20 Years


KUSA: From heights to hands, the journey of the Global Positioning System is fascinating.

"It's part of our daily lives. I used GPS to get down here this morning," said George Sowers, Vice-President of Advanced Concepts and Development at Centennial-based United Launch (ULA). "Our rockets– from our current company and our heritage companies– have launched every single GPS satellite."

GPS started as a military effort. It became fully operational on July 17, 1995.

"That was its original purpose, for navigation, so that troops and airplanes and ships know exactly where they are on the surface of the Earth," Sowers said.

Since the invention GPS, it has been used for various civilian purposes. GPS made it possible to find way as well as things, which seemingly vanished.

"It's enabled people to locate otherwise unlocatable objects and people," Sowers said. "It's been able to fight crime. If you have a GPS tracker in your car, and it gets stolen, they can track. It's really become ubiquitous throughout our society."

It’s not always perfect due to the disruption of solar storms.

"We also see impacts on the GPS signals, for example, that would cause inaccuracies on the measurements and whatnot," said the Space Weather Prediction Center's William Murtagh, during a solar storm last fall.

The system keeps improving with the new GPS satellite launch said Sower.

"Each one of those new blocks of satellites has more capability and more power and more precision than the ones before," he said. "It's just another example of how space can affect people's everyday lives."

The newest GPS satellite the GPS IIF-10 will be launched with a rocket by ULA on Wednesday. From Cape Canaveral, FL, on a ULA Atlas V rocket it will take off between 9:36 to 9:54 a.m. MDT.

Schriever Air Force Base near Colorado Springs will be celebrating their 20th anniversary of GPS this week. 39 satellites that make up the GPS constellation are controlled by members of the 2nd and 19th Space Operations Squadrons. 

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