The Global Positioning System GPS is a global navigation satellite system GNSS developed by the United States Department of Defense and managed by the United States Air Force 50th Space Wing. It is the only fully functional GNSS in the world, can be used freely, and is often used by civilians for navigation purposes. It uses a constellation of between 24 and 32 Medium Earth Orbit satellites that transmit precise microwave signals, which allow GPS receivers to determine their current location, the time, and their velocity. Its official name is NAVSTAR GPS. Although NAVSTAR is not an acronym, a few backronyms have been created for it.
Since it became fully operational in 1993, GPS has become a widely used aid to navigation worldwide, and a useful tool for map-making, land surveying, commerce, scientific uses, and hobbies such as geocaching. Also, the precise time reference is used in many applications including the scientific study of earthquakes. GPS is also a required key synchronization resource of cellular networks, such as the Qualcomm CDMA air interface used by many wireless carriers in a multitude of countries.
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