The first satellite navigation system, Transit, used by the United States Navy, was first successfully tested in 1960. It used a constellation of five satellites and could provide a navigational fix approximately once per hour. In 1967, the U.S. Navy developed the Timation satellite which proved the ability to place accurate clocks in space, a technology that GPS relies upon. In the 1970s, the ground-based Omega Navigation System, based on phase comparison of signal transmission from pairs of stations, became the first worldwide radio navigation system. Friedwardt Winterberg  proposed a test of General Relativity using accurate atomic clocks placed in orbit in artificial satellites. To achieve accuracy requirements, GPS uses principles of general relativity to correct the satellites’ atomic clocks.
The design of GPS is based partly on similar ground-based radio navigation systems, such as LORAN and the Decca Navigator developed in the early 1940s, and used during World War II. Additional inspiration for the GPS came when the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik in 1957. A team of U.S. scientists led by Dr. Richard B. Kershner were monitoring Sputnik’s radio transmissions. They discovered that, because of the Doppler effect, the frequency of the signal being transmitted by Sputnik was higher as the satellite approached, and lower as it continued away from them. They realized that since they knew their exact location on the globe, they could pinpoint where the satellite was along its orbit by measuring the Doppler distortion (see Transit (satellite)).
After Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was shot down in 1983 after straying into the USSR’s prohibited airspace, President Ronald Reagan issued a directive making GPS freely available for civilian use, once it was sufficiently developed, as a common good. The first satellite was launched in 1989 and the 24th and last satellite was launched in 1994.
Initially the highest quality signal was reserved for military use, and the signal available for civilian use intentionally degraded (”Selective Availability”, SA). Selective Availability was ended in 2000, improving the precision of civilian GPS from about 100m to about 20m.
Transit (satellite) :
The TRANSIT system, also known as NAVSAT (for Navy Navigation Satellite System), was the first satellite navigation system to be used operationally. The system was primarily used by the US Navy to provide accurate location information to ballistic missile submarines, and was also used as a general navigation system by the Navy, as well as hydrographic and geodetic surveying.
The Timation satellites were conceived, developed, and launched by the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. beginning in 1964. The concept of Timation was to broadcast an accurate time reference for use as a ranging signal to receivers on the ground. On May 31, 1967 the Timation-1 satellite was launched. This was followed by the Timation-2 satellite launch in 1969. The results of this program and Air Force Project 621B formed the basis for the Global Positioning System (GPS). The Navy’s contribution to the GPS program continued to be focused on ever more accurate clocks.
Interestingly, there is a historical connection between accurate time keeping, navigation, and the Navy. In 1714 the British government passed the Longitude Act (see longitude prize) to create an incentive to solve the problem of navigation at sea. The solution, developed by John Harrison, was an accurate clock which could compare local time to Greenwich, England time. To this day Greenwich Mean Time is the reference time for the planet, and in the United States, the official time is kept by the United States Navy at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C..
General relativity :
General relativity or the general theory of relativity is the geometric theory of gravitation published by Albert Einstein in 1916. It is the current description of gravitation in modern physics. It unifies special relativity and Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and describes gravity as a geometric property of space and time, or spacetime. In particular, the curvature of spacetime is directly related to the four-momentum (mass-energy and linear momentum) of whatever matter and radiation are present. The relation is specified by the Einstein field equations, a system of partial differential equations.
Many predictions of general relativity differ significantly from those of classical physics, especially concerning the passage of time, the geometry of space, the motion of bodies in free fall, and the propagation of light. Examples of such differences include gravitational time dilation, the gravitational redshift of light, and the gravitational time delay. General relativity’s predictions have been confirmed in all observations and experiments to date. Although general relativity is not the only relativistic theory of gravity, it is the simplest theory that is consistent with experimental data. However, unanswered questions remain, the most fundamental being how general relativity can be reconciled with the laws of quantum physics to produce a complete and self-consistent theory of quantum gravity.
Einstein’s theory has important astrophysical implications. It points towards the existence of black holes—regions of space in which space and time are distorted in such a way that nothing, not even light, can escape—as an end-state for massive stars. There is evidence that such stellar black holes as well as more massive varieties of black hole are responsible for the intense radiation emitted by certain types of astronomical objects such as active galactic nuclei or microquasars. The bending of light by gravity can lead to the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, where multiple images of the same distant astronomical object are visible in the sky. General relativity also predicts the existence of gravitational waves, which have since been measured indirectly; a direct measurement is the aim of projects such as LIGO. In addition, general relativity is the basis of current cosmological models of a consistently expanding universe.
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