The U.S. Global Positioning System has garnered a long list of honors over the years, but a forthcoming presentation from the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) is one of the most remarkable yet.
An award marking the occasion of the IAF’s 60th anniversary singled out GPS from among organizations and individuals as the “singular and successful project in the field of Space Applications, Space Science and Exploration, which could demonstrate through its implementation, that measurable benefit to humanity has been achieved.”
The GPS program will receive a certificate and a trophy during the IAF’s annual congress, October 3–7 in Cape Town, South Africa. It was nominated by the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), an IAF member.
The Bureau of the International Astronautical Federation chose the 60th Anniversary Award recipient based on a recommendation by the IAF's Honours and Awards Committee. Sir Martin Sweeting, the committee chair, is the executive chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), which is helping build Galileo's operational satellites for the EU.
IAF President Berndt Feuerbacher said of the award, "I am very pleased to recognize the Global Positioning System for the vital role it plays in the modern world. From in-car satnav to disaster relief, from cellular telephony to air traffic control, GPS is an application which is a central part of the lives of nearly every person in the world.”
Lt. Gen. John T. Sheridan, commander at the Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, home of the GPS Directorate, said, “We greatly appreciate this significant honor . . . The positive and cross-cutting impact of GPS and GPS applications on modern life is indisputable. The ubiquity and breadth of GPS applications defy even the ambitious goals and expectations of its originators.
“The IAF's 60th anniversary award is an honor and testament to 40 years of dedicated effort by thousands of people including members of the Department of Defense, civil agencies, defense contractors, private industry, academia, and countless others who invested their best efforts to create and improve GPS capabilities. And as if the technological and physical achievement of GPS wasn't enough, the United States government has provided this revolutionary ‘utility’ free of charge to billions of users across the globe.”
The IAF announcement noted that GPS is an increasingly vital part of several critical infrastructures for air transportation, maritime shipping, electrical power, communications, timing natural resources management, and emergency responders at global, national and local levels.
“The position, navigation, and precision timing capabilities of GPS have enabled the infusion of information technology productivity into traditional physical infrastructures in both developing and developed countries,” the IAF said. “Like an open source computer operating system, its public interface standards have enabled market-driven innovations in a wide array of applications that were not imagined by the system’s creators. The IAF Honors and Awards Committee recognized the uniqueness of the GPS program and the exemplary role it has played in building international collaboration for the benefit of humanity.”
AIAA President Mark Lewis congratulated the GPS program upon this exceptional award. “Notwithstanding the many scientific and technical achievements that have come from human and robotic spaceflight and the revolutions created by satellite communications, weather satellites, and remote sensing,” he said, “GPS is the space program that touches and aids more humans every minute of every day in every corner of the globe.”
The International Astronautical Federation is a worldwide association of organizations active in space, with 205 members in 58 countries including all leading agencies, space companies, societies, associations, and institutes worldwide.