Skip to main content

navigation satellite

navigation satellite, artificial satellite designed expressly to aid the navigation of sea and air traffic. Early navigation satellites, from the Transit series launched in 1960 to the U.S. navy's Navigation Satellite System, relied on the Doppler shift. Based on the shift in the satellite's frequency, a ship at sea could accurately determine its longitude and latitude.

The Global Positioning System (GPS), whose satellites replaced the Transit series, uses a web of 24 Navstar satellites in 12-hour orbits. The first Navstar satellite was launched in 1989, and the system began full operation in the 1990s. The satellites broadcast time and position messages continuously, and GPS receivers employ the more accurate triangulation method to determine position; the signals picked up by a GPS receiver can calculate position to within a few yards.

GPS receivers and navigation software may be incorporated into aviation and marine navigation equipment, built-in vehicle dashboard devices, smartphones, computer tablets, and other equipment. Standalone GPS devices are manufactured for use in vehicles and by hikers, but the increasing prevalence of GPS receivers and navigation software on smartphones offers a reasonable alternative to such units. The GPS system can also be used for nonnavigation purposes, such as surveying, tracking migrating animals, plotting the crop yields of small sections of farmland, and determining an individual's or vehicle's location or movements.

The former Soviet Union established a Navstar-equivalent system known as the Global Orbiting Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). Russia's GLONASS uses a similar number of satellites and orbits similar to those of the Navstar satellites. China's Beidou, or Compass, navigation satellite system began operations in 2011 with 10 satellites, and the European Union also is developing a navigation satellite system.

See T. Logsdon, Understanding the Navstar: GPS, GIS, and IVHS (1995); B. Hofmann-Wellenhoff, Global Positioning System: Theory and Practice (1997).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"navigation satellite." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Sep. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"navigation satellite." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (September 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/navigation-satellite

"navigation satellite." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved September 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/navigation-satellite

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.