TRANSIT, THE NAVY NAVIGATION SATELLITE SYSTEM

Thomas A. Stansell, Jr.

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: So much has happened in this world since October 4, 1957, it is difficult to realize that fewer than 14 years have passed since the launch of Sputnik I, the first artificial earth satellite. Technology has leapt forward from those first "beeps" in space to produce worldwide communication and weather monitoring systems, spies-in-the sky, astronomical observations, pictures from Mars, and manned exploration of the moon. Navigation has not been ignored in this spaceward expansion of our technology. Observations made on signals from that first Sputnik triggered development of Transit, the Navy Navigation Satellite System. This development, officially begun in December of 1958, resulted in a worldwide navigation aid which has been continuous operation since January of 1964. It is particularly significant that Transit, which was developed by the Navy to meet the military requirements of guiding Polaris submarines, has been released by the Government for private use. Vice President Humphrey, in announcing the release on July 29, 1967, stated that Transit has "...enabled fleet units to pinpoint their positions anywhere on the earth. The same degree of navigational accuracy will now be available to our non-military ships." This promise has been fulfilled, with commercial users of the system able to achieve a worldwide accuracy of 50 meters or better (ref.1). Transit is the only navigation satellite system to have been developed by the United States, although other systems have been proposed and are being studied. Both the Soviet Union and France have been experimenting with doppler navigation satellite systems similar in concept to Transit. The current status of these efforts is unknown to the author, except that occasionally our Transit receivers track a satellite in a rather elliptic orbit emitting apparently unmodulated signals on the international navigation satellite frequencies, slightly offset from those employed by Transit. Reviewing the development and the current status of the Transit System is appropriate for this commemorative issue of Navigation. Transit is a remarkable achievement, praised by Dr. Maurice Ewing, Director of the Lamont Geological Observatory, as "...the most important contribution to oceanic research that has been made during my career." (Ref.2).
Published in: NAVIGATION, Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 18, Number 1
Pages: 93 - 109
Cite this article: Stansell, Thomas A., Jr.,, "TRANSIT, THE NAVY NAVIGATION SATELLITE SYSTEM", NAVIGATION, Journal of The Institute of Navigation, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 1971, pp. 93-109.
Full Paper: ION Members/Non-Members: 1 Download Credit
Sign In