30th Anniversary of First Block II GPS Satellite Launched Into Orbit

Updated: January 21, 2019

30th Anniversary of the First GPS Satellite Launched Into Orbit

On February 14, 1989, the first Global Positioning System (GPS) “Block II” satellite was launched into Earth’s orbit. To ensure global coverage, 23 additional satellites were launched over the following years at various altitudes and orbits. Thus, a new era of Land Surveying was born, although it would be several more years before it would become mainstream in the industry.

Originally developed by the U. S. Department of Defense, the new GPS system would eventually become a normal part of everyday life. You can find out more about Block II satellites here.

In more recent GPS news, the first Block III satellite was launched into orbit on December 28, 2018. However, it won’t arrive in its final location for at least a few years, due to various delays and cost overruns. The remainder of the 10 Block IIIA satellites aren’t scheduled to be completed until 2023. For more information, follow this link.

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Originally published on January 21, 2019

About the Author

Wendell T. Harness

I’ve been building online properties since the late 1980’s and transitioned to web design in 1999. I formed Harness Media in 2005 to help businesses grow through online marketing. I also talk to cats in a silly voice.

16 thoughts on “30th Anniversary of First Block II GPS Satellite Launched Into Orbit”

  1. The 30 years of Block II sure is a long time! Maybe the title of this discussion and the related article should be edited to show that they refer specifically to Block II. The *first* GPS satellite — an experimental Block I — was orbited in 1978. NGS was using GPS by 1982 or 1983 (the Macrometer came out in 1982). I was using GPS in an airborne project by 1985, or maybe 1984, with a Motorola Eagle Mini Ranger receiver.

    Reply
    • Posted by: Bill C

      The 30 years of Block II sure is a long time! Maybe the title of this discussion and the related article should be edited to show that they refer specifically to Block II. The *first* GPS satellite — an experimental Block I — was orbited in 1978. NGS was using GPS by 1982 or 1983 (the Macrometer came out in 1982). I was using GPS in an airborne project by 1985, or maybe 1984, with a Motorola Eagle Mini Ranger receiver.

      Good point, Bill. Headline has been updated.

      Reply
      • And to really surprise a lot of people, we can point out that the design work for GPS began almost 50 years ago. I think 1973 was the official start of the US Air Force’s Navstar GPS program, but I recall reading that the actual inception was with a study group that met over the Labor Day weekend of 1972. So this coming September, we can reflect that we’re using fundamentally 47-year-old technology (with improvements in the spacecraft over that time, and a lot of improvements in the exploitation of the not initially intended carrier phase observables 😉). [I see that Wikipedia says the Labor Day study group was in 1973; I have a strong recollection from the 1980s or early 1990s that it was in 1972, but either way, it was nearly 50 years ago!]

        Reply
  2. I will be celebrating 29 years of GPS usage in July, 1st worked with a Trimble 4000ST in July 1990. Hard to believe it has been almost 30 years!SHG

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  3. Put me in the “I feel old now too” category as well.    Started observing and processing data in 1989.   Will have to dig out a copy of a presentation I did at a 1990 conference titled “GPS – the good, bad and ugly”.   Most of my vision of where GPS would lead us in the future came to fruition.  

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  4. On the matter of the development of phase measurement, I always appreciated the work of Charles Counselman III and recommend the following short articles.https://honors.agu.org/winners/charles-c-counselman-iii/https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422110/charles-c-counselman-iii-64-sm-65-phd-69/I sort of miss the days when the technology was developing and not so much of a “black box.” Wasn’t it Asimov who said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?” Too lazy to look it up. 

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    • Posted by: GeeOddMikeOn the matter of the development of phase measurement, I always appreciated the work of Charles Counselman III and recommend the following short articles.https://honors.agu.org/winners/charles-c-counselman-iii/https://www.technologyreview.com/s/422110/charles-c-counselman-iii-64-sm-65-phd-69/I sort of miss the days when the technology was developing and not so much of a “black box.” Wasn’t it Asimov who said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?” Too lazy to look it up. 

      Arthur C. Clarke (one of his “3 laws”)

      Reply
    • @geeoddmike

      I almost mentioned Chuck Counselman in my previous post; he’s quite a cool guy. I remember attending a small seminar he gave in the late 1980s or maybe in 1990 about some new ideas in locating satellites to the centimeter or sub-centimeter level. At the end, I asked him what it meant to locate an object several meters in size to that level. 😊 It was kind of a foreshadowing of the “Where on the Rod is the Corner?” discussion here on RPLS Today. For a couple of years afterwards, I had occasional acquaintance with him via a mutual avocation. He exhibited that great combination of being a really smart person and also a really nice person.

      Reply
        • Posted by: Bill93

          Posted by: Loyalhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws

          Thanks for the reminder.  There go my credentials as a science fiction reader.

          I’ve been a huge Science Fiction fan as far back as I can remember. I still like some of the early Science Fiction Moves (even some of the bad ones), although many of the newer one rely far too much on “special effects.”Loyal

          Reply
          • Posted by: LoyalI’ve been a huge Science Fiction fan as far back as I can remember. I still like some of the early Science Fiction Moves (even some of the bad ones), although many of the newer one rely far too much on “special effects.”

            Continuing the hijack …I prefer semi-realistic SF over fantasy and magic stuff.  I’ll accept warp drives and FTL if it’s a good story, but don’t break the rules of physics where the story doesn’t need to.  I don’t see a lot of movies because of the terribly unrealistic stuff that could be done right. Swooping aerobatic-appearing maneuvers in space and I’m yelling “No!” at the screen.  The movie Gravity had them catching on to a space station and then, after being at zero relative motion, the guy is somehow pulled away by a force that makes no sense, and that’s needed as a key plot point – NO!I don’t read as much as I used to and don’t know all the current authors.  My favorites were Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Friday. Lots of his others were good, too, but some of the later ones got entirely too wordy and strange.  I read some of Asimov and Clarke, Niven, and several others.  I really liked the earlier James Hogan books (before he got too preachy) and was impressed with how his stories were all so different from each other.  He could write a time travel story, a visit to a neutron star, a character figuring out he had a multi-layer mind, or an interplanetary fight with equal ease.

  5. Thanks for the correction. I envy Bill C’s acquaintance with one of the greats. I have known some really smart people and found most to be on the nice side. Some revealed themselves to be so only after closer acquaintance. I ran across an early 90’s presentation (https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/dr.geophysics/map-projections-datums-gis-and-gps-for-everyone ) that I am pretty sure originated at the NGS. It includes the following slide:[attach]3654[/attach]

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