Demystifying Mysterious Things

Global Positioning System (GPS)

GPS systems use satellites to provide geolocation information for any device that has an unobstructed line of sight to at least four GPS satellites. GPS is the gold standard to ensure availability of accurate time and position to benefit all of humanity.

National Resource

GPS is considered a national resource. It is owned and operated by the United States Government. They are required by law to provide a free 24/7 continuous, worldwide service.


The GPS satellites orbit together to form a constellation at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km (12,600 miles). Each one orbits about 2 times a day.


To determine your exact location, GPS uses time delay in a process called trilateration between GPS receivers and the GPS satellites.

Fun facts

Facts about GPS.


The Department of Defense (DoD) first launched the GPS project in the United States.


The year GPS became operational


Total GPS satellites


Precision in meters (~16.4 feet) of GPS measurements

"Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries."

Meg Wheatley, author

More Resources

Learn more


There are a number of different applications for GPS

It's Everywhere

  • Astronomy
  • Self-driving cars
  • Clock synchronization
  • Cellular technology
  • Emergency Response - GPS coordiantes can be used to locate 911 callers
  • Fleet tracking - identify and locate boats and vehicles
  • Geofencing - Understand when devices enter/exit/dwell in different locations
  • Geotagging - mark your digital content, like photos, with the location they were created
  • Navigation

Articles & Videos

Read up on GPS or watch one of the videos below

Do your homework

More Facts

GPS is so cool that we had to tell you a few more fun facts about it.

So Cool!

  • $10B+ Annual Benefits
  • FREE to Use
  • $35B+ invested by US in GPS
  • Over 5 million jobs affected in the USA each year
  • GPS accuracy can be affected by factors such as atmospheric effects, sky blockage, and receiver quality.
  • Civilian GPS (SPS) and Military GPS (PPS) have the same accuracy.