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US Space Force celebrates 25 years of GPS

US Space Force celebrates 25 years of GPS

It was on 27 April 1995 that the system reached full operational capability, with the U.S. Air Force Space Command formally announcing the milestone three months later.

Originally developed for military needs – to determine precise locations on battlefield – GPS use widened to become a prevalent consumer technology as the US military granted wider access to the system.

“This is a major milestone,” Gen. Thomas S. Moorman Jr., former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, said in 1995. “GPS has become integral to our warfighters and is rapidly becoming a true utility in the civilian community.”

“The United States Space Force’s continuing objective for the constellation is to ensure GPS remains the Gold Standard for global space-based positioning, navigation and timing,” said Gen. Jay Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations, and U.S. Space Command Commander (right).

In 2020, the US Space Force has taken over responsibility for operating the GPS satellite constellation. They describe it as “as a global utility – always available to everyone, everywhere on Earth”.

“GPS is a free for use service provided by the Space Force that enhances everyday lives around the world,” said Brig. Gen. DeAnna Burt, USSF Director of Operations and Communications.

“GPS provides the highest accuracy positioning and timing data. In addition to the essential capabilities it provides for the military, GPS underpins critical financial, transportation and agricultural infrastructure. It’s always available, whether for an ATM transaction or securing a rideshare.”

The positioning technology was first used in 1990 and 1991 during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Allied troops relied heavily on the new signal to navigate the featureless deserts in Kuwait and Iraq.

The GPS operational constellation currently has 31 satellites, and the system is continually updated and modernized, making it a resilient system to maintain the signals required for accurate positioning, navigation and timing around the world.


The first satellite of the new GPS III version, called Vespucci, was launched into space on 23 December 2018.

More recently, the US Space Force updated the OCX (Operational Control System) hardware for its Space and Missile Systems Center, the responsibilities of which include managing the satellites for the system, swapping out IBM kit.

GPS III satellites are designed to be more accurate, have improved anti-jamming capabilities, and have doubled the design life compared to previous iterations of the technology.

See also: Raytheon wins Space Force OCX contract to switch out IBM kit for GPS III

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