Happy 20th Birthday, GPS! The Top 5 Things We Couldn’t Do Without You


July 17, 2015 – Governor Hickenlooper has declared today “GPS Day” in Colorado in celebration of the leading role Colorado has played; and continues to play in creating and advancing GPS technology.

This week, GPS celebrates 20 years in public operation, which leads us to ponder just what we did before we had GPS in our lives here in Colorado? Here are just a few things that were different before we had GPS:

  • 1. Mapping your altitude while hiking a Colorado 14er to see how far you have left to go.

  • 2. Checking driving directions with Mapquest (you know, just a little Denver-based company!).

  • 3. Location tagging those #nofilter Facebook or Instagram pics of a Colorado sunset.

  • 4. Sharing your bike commute route along a Metro Denver path with your social media followers. #EnergeticBodies

  • 5. Tracking your luggage, laptop, or child if you accidentally left them back at security at Denver International Airport (DIA).

  • But in all seriousness, today marks 20 years since the Global Positioning System (GPS) was declared at Full Operational Capability on July 17, 1995. In the two decades since, GPS technology has been woven into nearly every aspect of our lives, both as a military tool and a day-to-day civilian utility. With more than four billion GPS-enabled devices worldwide (a number expected to double in the next five years!) it is estimated that the global GPS market will reach more than $26 billion in value by 2016.

    Why is it such a big deal in Colorado?

    GPS is operated by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs – the entire global system, that is. Additionally, every operational GPS satellite launch mission has been successful since the project started, and has been positioned in orbit by Colorado-headquartered United Launch Alliance (ULA) or its heritage launch vehicles.

    Looking ahead – GPS III, the most powerful GPS satellite ever developed, is currently being designed and built at Lockheed Martin’s advanced satellite manufacturing facility in Littleton, while Raytheon in Aurora is developing the command and control capabilities for this new GPS III family of satellites. Companies such as Boeing, Harris Corporation, Braxton Technologies, and Infinity Systems Engineering also support GPS development and operations from their locations in Colorado. So, Colorado is literally the center of the universe for GPS.

    The celebration began earlier this week with ULA’s successful launch of the GPS IIF-10 mission—one of the next-generation GPS satellites—from an Atlas V 401 rocket for the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday. The GPS IIF-10 incorporates various improvements to provide greater accuracy, increased signals, and enhanced performance for users.

    So how will you celebrate today’s anniversary here in Colorado? Whether you’re getting driving directions around town from Siri, locating your GPS-tagged car in the parking lot, verifying your available cash at the ATM, or simply sharing Colorado’s Mile High mountain beauty with friends and family, we should all take pride in knowing that Colorado plays such a pivotal role in creating and advancing the GPS technology that has become a core part of our daily lives.

    You can view Governor Hickenlooper’s Proclamation of GPS Day online.