The GPS Vanguard

by Fabian Toulouse

The Soviet Union launched the Sputnik on October 4, 1957 and changed the world as we know it. This satellite was not a satellite as we know today. It was the size of a basketball. This was the beginning of a world of new technology. The launch of this satellite was followed by the United States on January 31, 1958, with the launch of Explorer I. This satellite was responsible for the discovery of magnetic radiation belts around the Earth. This program was a continual program of Explorer spacecraft that launched successfully and were a useful part of scientific studies.

The year was 1952 and the International Council of Scientific Unions chose the dates from July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958 as the International Geophysical Year (IGY). These dates were chosen because the solar activity cycles were going to be at an all time high. The purpose of launching the satellites was to map the surface of the Earth. In 1954 this council proposed that artificial satellites would be launched during the IGY. The proposals were requested for the agencies doing research for the government and the Naval Research Laboratory’s Vanguard was the one chosen to be the representative of the U.S.

The first global positioning system was given a test run in 1978 when it was launched into space. The system is now made up of 24 satellites which were first put together in 1994. The system weighed about 2,000 pounds and when the solar panels are pulled out. This is quite a far cry from the original satellites that were the size of a basketball. This system was first made for use by the military however, it was made available to the public in the 1980s. The great thing about the system is it worked anywhere, in any weather, 24/7.

The global positioning system makes a circle around the earth two times in a 24 hour period. The orbit it takes is quite exact and the signal transmits back to earth. When this information is transmitted, there are receivers that calculate the owner of the system to an exact spot. What basically happens is the receiver calculates the time the signal was sent by satellite with when it was received. The difference in time tells the receiver the distance of the satellite. A few more measurements of the same type and the receiver can pinpoint the user and display it on the global positioning system’s electronic map.

GPS devices are tremendous tools should the need to track an automobile arise. If there is a need to find someone or their vehicle, this method can be used to track the car. For people who are worried about carjacking or kidnapping or any number of crimes that have escalated lately, this is one of the best systems ever invented. As long as you have your GPS, you are never lost.

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