Space segment will consist 21 GPS satellites with an addition of 3 active spares. These satellites are placed in almost six circular orbits with an inclination of 55 degree. Orbital height of these satellites is about 20,200 km corresponding to about 26,600 km from the semi major axis. Orbital period is exactly 12 hours of sidereal time and this provides repeated satellite configuration every day advanced by four minutes with respect to universal time.
Final arrangement of 21 satellites constellation known as 'Primary satellite constellation' is given in Fig. 4. There are six orbital planes A to F with a separation of 60 degrees at right ascension (crossing at equator). The position of a satellite within a particular orbit plane can be identified by argument of latitude or mean anomaly M for a given epoch.
Figure 4. 4: Arrangement of satellites in full constellation
GPS satellites are broadly divided into three blocks: Block-I satellite pertains to development stage, Block II represents production satellite and Block IIR are replenishment/spare satellite.
Under Block-I, NAVSTAR 1 to 11 satellites were launched before 1978 to 1985 in two orbital planes of 63-degree inclination. Design life of these prototype test satellites was only five years but the operational period has been exceeded in most of the cases.
The first Block-II production satellite was launched in February 1989 using channel Douglas Delta 2 booster rocket. A total of 28 Block-II satellites are planned to support 21+3 satellite configuration. Block-II satellites have a designed lifetime of 5-7 years.
To sustain the GPS facility, the development of follow-up satellites under Block-II R has started. Twenty replenishment satellites will replace the current block-II satellite as and when necessary. These GPS satellites under Block-IR have additional ability to measure distances between satellites and will also compute ephemeris on board for real time information gives a schematic view of Block-II satellite. Electrical power is generated through two solar panels covering a surface area of 7.2 square meter each. However, additional battery backup is provided to provide energy when the satellite moves into earth's shadow region. Each satellite weighs 845kg and has a propulsion system for positional stabilization and orbit maneuvers.
Fig 4.5 Schematic view of a Block II GPS satellite
GPS satellites have a very high performance frequency standard with an accuracy of
between 1X10-12 to 1X10-13 and are thus capable of creating precise time base. Block-I satellites were partly equipped with only quartz oscillators but Block-II satellites have two cesium frequency standards and two rubidium frequency standards. Using fundamental frequency of 10.23 MHz, two carrier frequencies are generated to transmit signal codes.