Because of the inability of the large geodetic systems such as the North American Datum (NAD), European Datum (ED), and Tokyo Datum (TD), to provide a basis for expression of inter- continental geodetic information, a unified world system became essential. The Department of Defense, in the late 1950's began to develop the needed world system to which geodetic datums could be referred and compatibility established between the coordinates of widely separated sites of interest. Efforts of the Army, Navy and Air Force were combined leading to the DoD World Geodetic System 1960 (WGS 60). In accomplishing WGS 60, a combination of available surface gravity data, astrogeodetic data and results from HIRAN and Canadian SHORAN surveys were used to define a best-fitting ellipsoid and an earth-centered orientation for each of the initially selected datums (Chapter IV). (The datums are relatively oriented with respect to different portions of the geoid by the astro-geodetic methods already described.) Figure 21. The sole contribution of satellite data to the development of WGS 60 was a value for the ellipsoid flattening which was obtained from the nodal motion of a satellite.

Prior to WGS 60, the Army and Air Force had each developed a world system by using different approaches to the gravimetric datum orientation method. Figure 37. To determine their gravimetric orientation parameters, the Air Force used the mean of the differences between the gravimetric and astro-geodetic deflections and geoid heights (undulations) at specifically selected stations in the areas of the major datums. The Army performed an adjustment to minimize the difference between astro-geodetic and gravimetric geoids. By matching the relative astro-geodetic geoids of the selected datums with an earth-centered gravimetric geoid, the selected datums were reduced to an earth-centered orientation. Since the Army and Air Force systems agreed remarkably well for the NAD, ED and TD areas, they were consolidated and became WGS 60.


The Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1966

In January 1966, a World Geodetic System Committee composed of representatives from the Army, Navy and Air Force, was charged with the responsibility of developing an improved WGS needed to satisfy mapping, charting and geodetic requirements. Additional surface gravity ob- servations, results from the extension of triangulation and trilateration networks, and large amounts of Doppler and optical satellite data had become available since the development of WGS 60. Using the additional data and improved techniques, WGS 66 was produced which served DoD needs for about five years after its implementation in 1967. The defining parameters of the WGS 66 Ellipsoid were the flattening (1/298.25), determined from satellite data and the semimajor axis (6,378,145 meters), determined from a combination of Doppler satellite and astro- geodetic data. A worldwide 5 x 5 mean free air gravity anomaly field provided the basic data for producing the WGS 66 gravimetric geoid. Also, a geoid referenced to the WGS 66 Ellipsoid was derived from available astrogeodetic data to provide a detailed representation of limited land areas.

The Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1972

After an extensive effort extending over a period of approximately three years, the Department of Defense World Geodetic System 1972 was completed. Selected satellite, surface gravity and astrogeodetic data available through 1972 from both DoD and non-DoD sources were used in a Unified WGS Solution (a large scale least squares adjustment). The results of the adjustment consisted of corrections to initial station coordinates and coefficients of the gravitational field.

The largest collection of data ever used for WGS purposes was assembled, processed and applied in the development of WGS 72. Both optical and electronic satellite data were used. The electronic satellite data consisted, in part, of Doppler data provided by the U.S. Navy and cooperating non-DoD satellite tracking stations established in support of the Navy's Navigational Satellite System (NNSS). Doppler data was also available from the numerous sites established by GEOCEIVERS during 1971 and 1972. Doppler data was the primary data source for WGS 72. Figure 38. Additional electronic satellite data was provided by the SECOR (Sequential Collation of Range) Equatorial Network completed by the U.S. Army in 1970. Optical satellite data from the Worldwide Geometric Satellite Triangulation Program was provided by the BC-4 camera system. Figure 39. Data from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory was also used which included camera (Baker Nunn) and some laser ranging.



The surface gravity field used in the Unified WGS Solution consisted of a set of 410 10 x 10 equal area mean free air gravity anomalies determined solely from terrestrial data. This gravity field includes mean anomaly values compiled directly from observed gravity data wherever the latter was available in sufficient quantity. The value for areas of sparse or no observational data were developed from geophysically compatible gravity approximations using gravity-geophysical correlation techniques. Approximately 45 percent of the 410 mean free air gravity anomaly values were determined directly from observed gravity data.

The astrogeodetic data in its basic form consists of deflection of the vertical components referred to the various national geodetic datums. These deflection values were integrated into astrogeodetic geoid charts referred to these national datums. The geoid heights contributed to the Unified WGS Solution by providing additional and more detailed data for land areas. Conventional ground survey data was included in the solution to enforce a consistent adjustment of the coordinates of neighboring observation sites of the BC-4, SECOR, Doppler and Baker-Nunn systems. Also, eight geodimeter long line precise traverses were included for the purpose of controlling the scale of the solution.

The Unified WGS Solution, as stated above, was a solution for geodetic positions and associated parameters of the gravitational field based on an optimum combination of available data. The WGS 72 ellipsoid parameters, datum shifts and other associated constants were derived separately. For the unified solution, a normal equation matrix was formed based on each of the mentioned data sets. Then, the individual normal equation matrices were combined and the resultant matrix solved to obtain the positions and the parameters.

The value for the semimajor axis (a) of the WGS 72 Ellipsoid is 6378135 meters. The adoption of an a-value 10 meters smaller than thaf for the WGS 66 Ellipsoid was based on several calculations and indicators including a combination of satellite and surface gravity data for position and gravitational field determinations. Sets of satellite derived station coordinates and gravimetric deflection of the vertical and geoid height data were used to determine local-to-geocentric datum shifts, datum rotation parameters, a datum scale parameter and a value for the semimajor axis of the WGS Ellipsoid. Eight solutions were made with the various sets of input data, both from an investigative point of view and also because of the limited number of unknowns which could be solved for in any individual solution due to computer limitations. Selected Doppler satellite tracking and astro-geodetic datum orientation stations were included in the various solutions. Based on these results and other related studies accomplished by the Committee, an a-value of 6378135 meters and a flattening of 1/298.26 were adopted.

In the development of local-to WGS 72 datum shifts, results from different geodetic disciplines were investigated, analyzed and compared. Those shifts adopted were based primarily on a large number of Doppler TRANET and GEOCEIVER station coordinates which were available worldwide. These coordinates had been determined using the Doppler point positioning method.

A New World Geodetic System

The need for a new world geodetic system is generally recongnized by the geodetic community within and without the Department of Defense. WGS 72 no longer provides sufficient data, information, geographic coverage, or product accuracy for all present and anticipated applications. The means for producing a new WGS are available in the form of improved data, increased data coverage, new data types and improved techniques. GRS 80 parameters (Chapter II), and presently available Doppler, laser and VLBI observations constitute significant new information which are being utilized. There are now over 1000 Doppler determined station positions available as compared to the near 100 station values used in WGS 72. Also, an outstanding new source of data is now being made available from satellite radar altimetry (Chapter VII). Among the improved techniques now employed is an advanced least squares method called collocation which provides for a consistent solution from different types of measurements all relative to the earth's gravity field, i.e. geoid, gravity anomalies, deflections, dynamic Doppler, etc.

WGS (initially WGS 72) is the reference system being used by the Global Positioning System.

Point of Contact: Geospatial Science Division
phone (314) 263-4486, DSN 693-4486

Document last modified