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Basic concept of GPS

Basic concept of GPSA GPS receiver calculates its position by precisely timing the signals sent by the GPS satellites high above the Earth. Each satellite continually transmits messages containing the time the message was sent, precise orbital information (the ephemeris), and the general system health and rough orbits of all GPS satellites (the almanac). The receiver measures the transit time of each message and computes the distance to each satellite. Geometric trilateration is used to combine these distances with the location of the satellites to determine the receiver's location. The position is displayed, perhaps with a moving map display or latitude and longitude; elevation information may be included. Many GPS units also show derived information such as direction and speed, calculated from position changes.It might seem three satellites are enough to solve for position, since space has three dimensions. However a very small clock error multiplied by the very large speed of light[5]—the speed at which satellite signals propagate—results in a large positional error. The receiver uses a fourth satellite to solve for x, y, z, and t which is used to correct the receiver's clock. While most GPS applications use the computed location only and effectively hide the very accurately computed time, it is used in a few specialized GPS applications such as time transfer and traffic signal timing.Although four satellites are required for normal operation, fewer apply in special cases. If one variable is already known (for example, a ship or plane may have known elevation), a receiver can determine its position using only three satellites. Some GPS receivers may use additional clues or assumptions (such as reusing the last known altitude, dead reckoning, inertial navigation, or including information from the vehicle computer) to give a degraded position when fewer than four satellites are visible (see [6], Chapters 7 and 8 of [7], and [8]).[edit] Position calculation introductionTo provide an introductory description of how a GPS receiver works, measurement errors will be ignored in this section. Using messages received from a minimum of four visible satellites, a GPS receiver is able to determine the satellite positions and time sent. The x, y, and z components of position and the time sent are designated as where the subscript i is the satellite number and has the value 1, 2, 3, or 4. Knowing the indicated time the message was received , the GPS receiver can compute the indicated transit time, . of the message. Assuming the message traveled at the speed of light, c, the distance traveled, can be computed as . Knowing the distance from GPS receiver to a satellite and the position of a satellite implies that the GPS receiver is on the surface of a sphere centered at the position of a satellite. Thus we know that the indicated position of the GPS receiver is at or near the intersection of the surfaces of four spheres. In the ideal case of no errors, the GPS receiver will be at an intersection of the surfaces of four spheres. The surfaces of two spheres, if they intersect in more than one point, intersect in a circle. A figure, Two Sphere Surfaces Intersecting in a Circle, is shown below.Two sphere surfaces intersecting in a circleThe article, trilateration, shows mathematically that two spheres intersecting in more than one point intersect in a circle.Surface of a sphere intersecting a circle (i.e., the edge of a disk) at two pointsA circle and sphere surface in most cases of practical interest intersect at two points, although it is conceivable that they could intersect at one point—or not at all. Another figure, Surface of Sphere Intersecting a Circle (not disk) at Two Points, shows this intersection. The two intersections are marked with dots. Again trilateration clearly shows this mathematically. The correct position of the GPS receiver is the intersection that is closest to the surface of the earth for automobiles and other near-Earth vehicles. The correct position of the GPS receiver is also the intersection which is closest to the surface of the sphere corresponding to the fourth satellite. (The two intersections are symmetrical with respect to the plane containing the three satellites. If the three satellites are not in the same orbital plane, the plane containing the three satellites will not be a vertical plane passing through the center of the Earth. In this case one of the intersections will be closer to the earth than the other. The near-Earth intersection will be the correct position for the case of a near-Earth vehicle. The intersection which is farthest from Earth may be the correct position for space vehicles.)[edit] Correcting a GPS receiver's clockThe method of calculating position for the case of no errors has been explained. One of the most significant error sources is the GPS receiver's clock. Because of the very large value of the speed of light, c, the estimated distances from the GPS receiver to the satellites, the pseudoranges, are very sensitive to errors in the GPS receiver clock. This suggests that an extremely accurate and expensive clock is required for the GPS receiver to work. On the other hand, manufacturers prefer to build inexpensive GPS receivers for mass markets. The solution for this dilemma is based on the way sphere surfaces intersect in the GPS problem.It is likely the surfaces of the three spheres intersect since the circle of intersection of the first two spheres is normally quite large and thus the third sphere surface is likely to intersect this large circle. It is very unlikely that the surface of the sphere corresponding to the fourth satellite will intersect either of the two points of intersection of the first three since any clock error could cause it to miss intersecting a point. However the distance from the valid estimate of GPS receiver position to the surface of the sphere corresponding to the fourth satellite can be used to compute a clock correction. Let denote the distance from the valid estimate of GPS receiver position to the fourth satellite and let denote the pseudorange of the fourth satellite. Let . Note that is the distance from the computed GPS receiver position to the surface of the sphere corresponding to the fourth satellite. Thus the quotient, , provides an estimate of (correct time) - (time indicated by the receiver's on-board clock), and the GPS receiver clock can be advanced if is positive or delayed if is negative.

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