Smithsonian - National Museum of American History, Behring Center

Physical Sciences Collection - Surveying and Geodesy

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Geoceiver PRR-14

Catalogue number:

"Naval Air Systems Command"


The Geoceiver used the Doppler signals sent from the Transit satellites to determine positions on earth. The project began in October 1957 when two American physicists observed the Doppler shift of radio signals from Sputnik, and realized that they could use these signals to determine the orbit of the satellite. Others realized that they could invert this technique–that is, use Doppler signals from satellites in stable orbits to produce an accurate, passive, all-weather, and world-wide navigation system suitable for Polaris submarines. The Applied Physics Laboratory of the Johns Hopkins University, the prime scientific contractor for the Polaris program, developed the Transit system. The first fully operational Transit satellite went into orbit in December 1963. The first position fix was computed aboard a submarine in January 1964. Doppler receivers for surface ships followed soon thereafter. The Navy released Transit signals for public use in July 1967.

Geoceiver was designed to be a man-portable satellite tracking station suitable for the accurate mapping of relatively inaccessible or remote areas. APL did the research; Magnavox did the development; the Navy provided the funds. The first units were delivered in 1971. Tests showed that the Geoceiver could determine positions with an accuracy of better than 10 cm. Each unit sold for about $50,000, and most were used by geodesists affiliated with the federal government. The National Imagery and Mapping Agency transferred this unit to the Smithsonian in 2000.

Geoceiver stands for geodetic receiver. The military nomenclature for this instrument is AN/PRR-14.

The Geoceiver consists of four parts: antenna, receiver, amplifier, and punched tape recorder.

Ref: T.A. Stansell, et. al., Geoceiver: An Integrated Doppler Geodetic Receiver APL TG-710 (Rev.), Nov. 1968.

Report of the DOD Geoceiver Test Program, Defense Mapping Agency Report 0001 (1972).

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