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How a GPS works

To know how does a GPS work It is extremely useful when using it, we will tell you what a GPS is, how it works, what it is for and what are its components of this wonderful geolocation system through satellites.

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What is a GPS

Gps or Global Positioning System is a radio navigation system that has been built based on satellites and is controlled by the Department of Defense of the United States of America, with which it is possible for a user to know their location, speed and height 24 hours a day , regardless of the atmospheric condition and the point on the terrestrial globe.

How a GPS works

In general terms, it must be stated that with a minimum of 24 satellites in orbit, people can know at any time where in the world they are. In this regard, it should be mentioned that there is a Constellation of 31 satellites orbit the earth at an altitude of 20,200 km, being they responsible for being consulted by the GPS devices.

Each of the aforementioned satellites completes one trip around the planet every 12 hours or so. The satellites are distributed in different orbital planes, in order to cover any terrestrial place by several of them at the same time.

On the other hand, the how a GPS works implies that these satellites emit a radio signal which is known as event, which is captured by the GPS antennas of mobile phones, navigators, watches or other types of receivers.

It is by means of the previous signal that the relative position of the satellite in relation to the receiver is calculated. Once the signals from different satellites have been combined, through a process of triangulation, you can know the position of the subject or vehicle, highlighting that the approximate accuracy is 5 m, although in some cases if the system is very powerful, the figure can be reduced to 1 m.


Broadly speaking, only with the signal from three satellites you can know the longitude and latitude of a position, but with a fourth satellite you can identify the altitude. Regarding receivers equipped with clocks synchronized with the satellite network, these three unknowns can be solved with only three satellites.

What is a GPS for?

This is a type of technology that has become very popular in recent times, both in the daily life, as in more specific activities such as geology, archeology, maritime navigation, military applications, among other alternatives.

In that vein, the operation of a GPS system It can be the perfect companion for sightseeing, going fishing, transporting yourself within a big city, knowing the route to take from one city to another, sailing on a sailboat, among other types of activities that involve being able to identify the site in the that a person is found by means of a device.

Finally, it is highlighted that it is increasingly common to find GPS systems in cars, handheld computers and mobile phones, thus facilitating transfers and understanding the space to be able to move around in it.

What are the components of GPS

  • Spatial component – It is made up of a constellation of satellites that are in Earth orbit and distributed in six orbital planes. Each plane is separated from each other by about 60 in length and they also have slopes.
  • Control component – It is made up of five tracking stations that are distributed around the globe and a main control station. With this platform, satellites are tracked, orbital positions are updated, calibrated, and clocks are synchronized.
  • User component – In short, it includes all those that make use of a GPS receiver to receive this GPS signal sharing a speed, position and time. They also consider the elements that are part of the process, such as antennas or processing software.

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