Date of Award

Winter 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Jan Andersson

Committee Member

David Selover


The goal of this work is to review the current state of Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) development and its potential impact on the social, economic, and political dynamics of the various states fielding the systems. The most recognizable GNSS is the US GPS. It is the only operational system functioning at the time of this writing and has become part of the global commons. GPS, by virtue of its uniqueness, is considered the 'gold standard' of satellite based positioning, navigation, and timing systems. This uniqueness has also enabled the US to fully capitalize on the sizable economic dividends gained by the US technology sector from the development and sales of GPS user equipment and services.

This work argues that the emergence of three global peer competitors to GPS is going to usher in a changed international relations environment for those new players. The economic implications go beyond a simple return on investment and could represent the continued space science and technical competitiveness of these states or not. The international political ramifications of the success or failure of the particular GNSSs could have a greater impact on the current international order than has been previously considered.

The European Union, Russia, and China have become inexorably locked in a contest of domestic political will to field the next generation of GNSS in order to free themselves from US GPS domination and at the same time gain economic advantage over the other in space system technologies. Concurrently, the US is endeavoring to field the next generation of GPS and maintain its dominance in the associated technologies linked to GPS.