What Type of Data Do GPS Satellites Use?


Scott Campbell

What Type of Data Do GPS Satellites Use?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigation system that relies on a network of satellites to provide accurate positioning and timing information anywhere on Earth. To understand the type of data GPS satellites use, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how GPS works.

How Does GPS Work?

GPS consists of three main components:

  • Satellites: A constellation of at least 24 satellites orbiting the Earth.
  • Ground Control Stations: These stations monitor and control the satellites’ orbits and clocks.
  • User Receivers: The devices we use to receive signals from the satellites and calculate our position.

Satellite Signals

The GPS satellites transmit two types of signals: navigation message and pseudorandom noise code (PRN code).

The navigation message contains various data, including information about satellite orbits, clock corrections, health status, and other system parameters. This data allows your GPS receiver to determine the location of each satellite at any given time.

The PRN code, also known as the Gold code, is a unique sequence for each satellite. It serves multiple purposes, such as identifying individual satellites, helping in signal acquisition and synchronization, and enabling accurate distance measurements between the receiver and each satellite.

Data Types Used by GPS Satellites

GPS satellites use different types of data to ensure accurate positioning:

  1. Ephemeris Data:

The ephemeris data provides precise information about the satellite’s position and velocity at a given time. This data is crucial for your GPS receiver to calculate accurate positioning information. Ephemeris data is typically updated every two hours.

  1. Almanac Data:

The almanac data contains less precise information about the orbit and general health of all satellites in the constellation. It helps your GPS receiver acquire signals quickly as it provides approximate satellite positions for a longer period, typically several weeks. Almanac data is updated once every few days.

  1. Clock Corrections:

Satellite clocks are critical for accurate positioning. Since satellite clocks may not be perfectly synchronized with GPS time, the satellites transmit clock correction parameters in their navigation message. Your GPS receiver uses these corrections to compensate for any clock inaccuracies.


GPS satellites use a combination of navigation messages, PRN codes, ephemeris data, almanac data, and clock corrections to provide accurate positioning information. Understanding the types of data used by GPS satellites helps us appreciate the complexity behind this remarkable technology that has become an integral part of our daily lives.

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