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- O'Mara on Easton and Frazier, 'GPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to Smartphones'
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He was a youngster when Roger Easton, a scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, helped develop the Vanguard satellites and invented the Minitrack tracking system, which determined their orbits. Being a space historian myself, the authors really held my attention through the first half of the book as they recounted those early years of the Space Age. But, Vanguard was really a great success, and it represented an innovative approach to designing and tracking scientific satellites.
Vanguard I, as the authors note, is still in orbit today.
What a remarkable fifteen years that was. The path from Vanguard I to Timation I—an experimental satellite designed by Easton and launched in to test his ideas for a Global Positioning System—was a long one. Inter-service rivalries between the Navy and Air Force made the effort even more difficult, as the authors describe in detail. The second half of the book recalls the evolution from military to commercial use of GPS.
It also describes the constellation of satellites required to make GPS work. At least four satellites must cover every spot on Earth, 24 hours a day. Currently, a network of 30 satellites makes that possible. Each of the satellites is equipped with an atomic clock another Roger Easton innovation because the system depends on extreme accuracy in measuring time and distance.
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- GPS Declassified – From Smart Bombs to Smart Phones?
The first civilian application of GPS was for land surveying—something Easton envisioned during the Vanguard era when he talked about using satellites for geodetic purposes. The same technology that was used to accurately find targets could also be used to locate troops caught behind enemy lines. Among the many commercial spinoffs this approach has produced, GPS arguably boasts the greatest impact on our daily lives. Told by the son of a navy insider—whose work helped lay the foundations for the system—and a science and technology journalist, the story chronicles the research and technological advances required for the development of GPS.
The authors peek behind the scenes at pivotal events in GPS history.
O'Mara on Easton and Frazier, 'GPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to Smartphones'
They note how the technology moved from the laboratory to the battlefield to the dashboard and the smartphone, and they raise the specter of how this technology and its surrounding industry affect public policy. Insights into how the system works and how it fits into a long history of advances in navigation tie into discussions of myriad applications for GPS.
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- O'Mara on Easton and Frazier, 'GPS Declassified: From Smart Bombs to Smartphones' | H-War | H-Net.
Richard D. Easton has published articles about the origin of GPS in various space-related publications. Mellberg, Space Review. Carr, Choice.
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