Global Positioning System GPS satellite in orbit, image courtesy NASAGPS redirects here. For other uses of the acronym GPS, see GPS .
The Global Positioning System, usually called GPS, is the only fully-functional satellite navigation system. A constellation of more than two dozen GPS satellites broadcasts precise timing signals by radio to electronic GPS receivers which allow them to accurately determine their location (longitude, latitude, and altitude) in real time, day or night, in any weather, anywhere on Earth.
United States Department of Defense developed the system, officially named NAVSTAR GPS (Navigation Signal Timing and Ranging GPS), and the satellite constellation is managed by the 50th Space Wing at Schriever Air Force Base. Although the cost of maintaining the system is approximately US$400 million per year, including the replacement of aging satellites, GPS is available for free use in civilian applications as a public good.
GPS has become a vital global utility, indispensable for modern navigation on land, sea, and air around the world, as well as an important tool for map-making, and land surveying. GPS also provides an extremely precise time reference, required for telecommunications and some scientific research, including the study of earthquakes.
In late 2005, the first in a series of next-generation GPS satellites was added to the constellation, offering several new capabilities, including a second civilian GPS signal called L2C for enhanced accuracy and reliability. In the coming years, additional next-generation satellites will increase coverage of L2C and add a third and fourth civilian signal to the system, as well as advanced military capabilities.
The Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS), available since August 2000, increases the accuracy of GPS signals to within 2 meters (6 ft)  for compatible receivers. GPS accuracy can be improved further, to about 1 cm (half an inch) over short distances, using techniques such as Differential GPS (DGPS).Magellan GPS receiver in a marine application.Over fifty GPS satellites such as this NAVSTAR have been launched since 1978.