13 April 1960: the first satellite navigation system is launched

On this day in 1960, Nasa sent the Transit 1B satellite into orbit to provide positioning for the US Navy’s fleet of Polaris ballistic missile submarines.

These days, satellite navigation systems are everywhere. Even the meanest smartphone can be used to guide you to your destination. Type in where you want to go, switch off brain, and follow the arrows. Only losers and old people use maps these days.

Satnavs aren't perfect, of course. They can cause irritation to residents when their normally quiet streets get marked as a handy shortcut for unsuitably large lorries. And they regularly cause hilarity when we hear of another inattentive fool who's driven into a river or off a cliff because that's what the satnav told them to do.

And the whole thing began on this day in 1960 when Nasa sent the Transit 1B satellite into orbit. The satellite was designed to provide positioning for the US Navy's fleet of Polaris ballistic missile submarines, a task it performed for over 30 years. It was superseded by America's Global Positioning System, the GPS known and loved by smartphone users the world over.

But GPS isn't the only system in town. The Soviet Union launched its Glonass system in the late 1960s. Now run by Russia's armed forces, it was the second system to achieve whole earth coverage.

China's BeiDou system has been operating since 2000. And India has its IRNSS, which provides coverage over the sub-continent. The EU isn't being left behind either – it has its Galileo system, in which the UK, having spent around £10bn on, is no longer involved.

Recommended

Britain’s most-bought shares w/e 24 June
Stocks and shares

Britain’s most-bought shares w/e 24 June

A look at Britain’s most-bought shares in the week ending 24 June, providing an insight into how investors are thinking and where opportunities may li…
27 Jun 2022
Prepare your portfolio for recession
Investment strategy

Prepare your portfolio for recession

A recession is looking increasingly likely. Add in a bear market and soaring inflation, and things are going to get very complicated for investors, sa…
27 Jun 2022
Carnival faces a long road to recovery – avoid for now
Share tips

Carnival faces a long road to recovery – avoid for now

Cruise operator Carnival suffered heavily during the pandemic, losing 90% of its market value and burning through $7bn in cash. Sales are back on the …
27 Jun 2022
Market crash: have we hit bottom or is there worse to come?
Stockmarkets

Market crash: have we hit bottom or is there worse to come?

For a little while, markets looked like they were about to embark on a full-on crash. And that could still happen, says Dominic Frisby. Today, he look…
27 Jun 2022

Most Popular

The ten investment trusts with the highest dividend yields
Investment trusts

The ten investment trusts with the highest dividend yields

Investment trusts are one of the best ways to participate in the stockmarket, and the way they are structured means they can maintain their dividends …
23 Jun 2022
Governments will sink in a world drowning in debt
Global Economy

Governments will sink in a world drowning in debt

Rising interest rates and soaring inflation will leave many governments with unsustainable debts. Get set for a wave of sovereign defaults, says Jonat…
23 Jun 2022
Why a recession will do us good
UK Economy

Why a recession will do us good

A period of slimming down is always painful, but it leaves us healthier for the long run, says Matthew Lynn.
26 Jun 2022