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Natural Sciences > Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences > Principles of the Global Positioning System
 Principles of the Global Positioning System  posted by  duggu   on 1/29/2008  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Artist's rendering of a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite.
Artist's rendering of a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite. (Image courtesy of USAF and USDOD.)

Course Highlights

This course includes detailed lecture notes and assignments.

Course Description

The aim of this course is to introduce the principles of the Global Positioning System and to demonstrate its application to various aspects of Earth Sciences. The specific content of the course depends each year on the interests of the students in the class. In some cases, the class interests are towards the geophysical applications of GPS and we concentrate on high precision(millimeter level) positioning on regional and global scales. In other cases, the interests have been more toward engineering applications of kinematic positioning with GPS in which case the concentration is on positioning with slightly less accuracy but being able to do so for a moving object. In all cases, we concentrate on the fundamental issues so that students should gain an understanding of the basic limitations of the system and how to extend its application to areas not yet fully explored.

Technical Requirements

Any number of software tools can be used to import the .dat files found on this course site. Please refer to the course materials for any specific instructions or recommendations.
Any number of development tools can be used to compile and run the .f files found on this course site. Please refer to the course materials for any specific instructions or recommendations.
MATLAB® software is required to run the .m files found on this course site.
All other file types in this course are data files and may be opened with a browser.


Basic Topics to be Covered
  1. Coordinate and Time Systems
    • Definition of global and local coordinate systems
    • Relationship between satellite and conventional geodetic systems

  2. Satellite Orbital Motions
    • Description of motions
    • Forces acting on the satellites
    • Satellite NAV messages

  3. GPS Observables
    • Pseudo ranges
    • Carrier phases
    • SA/AS
    • Format of data (RINEX)

  4. Estimation Procedures
    • Stochastic and mathematical models
    • Propagation of covariance matrices
    • Sequential estimation
    • Kalman filtering
    • Statistics in least-squares estimation

  5. Propagation Medium
    • Troposphere
    • Ionosphere
    • Multipath

  6. Mathematical Model of GPS Observables
    • Basic theory of contributions that need to be included for millimeter level global positioning
    • Use of differencing, differential position
    • Wide-lanes and use in kinematic positioning

  7. Methods of Processing GPS Data
    • Available software
    • Available data set, International GPS Service (IGS)
    • Cycle slip fixing/Bias resolution
    • Kinematic (moving receiver) GPS processing
    • Relationship between satellite and conventional geodetic systems

  8. Applications and Examples of GPS Data Analysis along with Other Space Geodetic Data

Text Books

Hofmann-Wellenhof, B., H. Lichtenegger, and J. Collins. GPS Theory and Practice. New York: Springer-Verlag, Wein, 1992, pp. 326.

Parkinson, B. W., J. Spilker, P. Axelrad, and P. Enge. Global Positioning System: Theory and Applications. Washington D.C.: Am. Inst. Aeronaut. Astronaut., 1996, pp. 793.

Some web sites to explore:

Navigation Center
Southern California Integrated GPS Network

Class Requirements

There will be homework once every few weeks. There will be no final, but there will be an end of semester paper on a topic of your choice. Grading will be from the homework (which will be largely the development of a GPS data analysis program) and the end of semester paper. The paper will be a review of an area related to the applications of GPS and will developed during the semester (i.e., the paper will be revised for content several times during semester).

It will be acceptable in this course to work together on homework with the aim of better understanding the material and to refer to other books and published material provided that these additional materials are cited appropriately in the homework. Each student should complete the homework separately. It is not acceptable to simply copy the homework of another student.


1 Introductory Lecture
Overview of the Aims of the Class and Introduction to Coordinate Systems
2 Coordinate and Time Systems
3 Coordinate and Time Systems (continued)
4 Coordinate and Time Systems (continued)
5 Satellite Motions
6 GPS Observables
7 GPS Observables (continued)
8 GPS Observables (continued)
9 GPS Observables (continued)
10 Estimation
11 Estimation (continued)
12 Estimation (continued)

Paper Topic and Outline Due
13 Estimation (continued)
14 Propagation Medium
15 Propagation Medium (continued)
16 Propagation Medium (continued)
17 Mathematical Models
18 Mathematical Models (continued)

First Draft of GPS Paper Due
19 Mathematical Models (continued)
20 Mathematical Models (continued)
21 Processing Methods
22 Processing Methods (continued)
23 Processing Methods (continued)
24 Applications and Examples
25 Applications and Examples (continued)
26 Student Presentations of GPS Papers and Final Draft of Paper   Tell A Friend