Embedded Avionics

July 1977: Rockwell Collins Receives ‘World’s First’ GPS Satellite Signal

By Staff Writer | July 20, 2017
Send Feedback

GPS receiver Rockwell Collins

GPS receiver. Photo: Rockwell Collins

Rockwell Collins in 1977 received “the world’s first GPS satellite signal,” the company said. Forty years ago, Rockwell Collins’ receiver station was six feet tall and had two seats.

“Working well after midnight on July 19, 1977, a Rockwell Collins engineer named David Van Dusseldorp sat on the rooftop of a company building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, adjusting an antenna every five minutes to receive a signal from the world’s first Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite known as NTS-2,” Rockwell Collins said. “Within a small window of time, the satellite was turned on and the message was successfully received and decoded by the team working the GPS receiver below.”

To commemorate the 40th anniversary, the company invited retirees to share firsthand stories at an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“We had leaders and team members working together, and I knew we could meet the challenge put before us,” said Van Dusseldorp. “The future of GPS was uncertain at the time, but I really felt like we had just accomplished something important.”

The Rockwell Collins GPS-4000S is the modern version of the 1977 receiver. The newer technology has the ability to process the transmissions of up to 10 GPS satellites and two space-based augmentation systems (SBAS) geostationary satellites simultaneously, the company said. The GPS-4000S is only 7.78 inches tall. Even smaller is the Micro GPS receiver at only one inch in height. It can use data from up to 121 GPS satellites, and Rockwell Collins said it “consumes the least power of any receiver in its class.”

Receive the latest avionics news right to your inbox