I've been reading about the effects GPS has had on our society with the February launch of a IIF Satellite and I was wondering if launching GPS satellites and the actual GPS satellites have lead to any impact on our understanding of physics?

The only thing I could think of is confirming Einstein's theory of relativity in a space with less gravity. Any others?

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    $\begingroup$ This is a list type question (frowned upon) and almost all of the applications will be engineering related imo . That's why I down voted it, sorry. $\endgroup$
    – user108787
    Jul 26 '16 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ Re "in space with less gravity" -- GPS satellites in low earth orbit still experience 9 m/s² compared to 9.81 m/s² down here. That isn't much less. $\endgroup$ Jul 26 '16 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick - good point, it isn't much less but it still is less and by just that change we can see a change in time in the nano seconds, which isn't much, but when you use it in an equation with the constant speed of light which is another tiny number the few nano seconds that don't matter to a human can throw your distance off by kilometers. $\endgroup$ Jul 26 '16 at 10:10

It is rather the other way around: our understanding of physics has enabled us to build GPS systems in the first place.

It is correct however that GPS was direct confirmation of not only the theory of special relativity, but also of general relativity. Neglecting the time dilation from the difference in gravitational fields between the satellite's position and the earth's surface would cause a incorrect position prediction of up to 10km for the GPS.


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