Instructor Information

Daniel Jablonski

Work Phone: 443-778-6907

Dr. Jablonski is a member of the Principal Professional Staff at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Course Information

Course Description

This course explores the use of satellite, terrestrial, celestial, radio, magnetic, and inertial systems for the real-time determination of position, velocity, acceleration, and attitude. Particular emphasis is on the historical importance of navigation systems; avionics navigation systems for high performance aircraft; the Global Positioning System; the relationships between navigation, cartography, surveying, and astronomy; and emerging trends for integrating various navigation techniques into single, tightly coupled systems.

Course Goal

To understand how navigation systems work, how they evolved, and how they affect the design and operation of the world's communication, transportation, economic, and research and development infrastructure.

Course Objectives

  • To understand the historical evolution of navigation systems, and their importance to our history, culture, and economy.

  • To understand the fundamental principles of astronomy, surveying, and navigation.
  • To understand how specific systems and techniques, including GPS, Loran, VOR, Tacan, inertial measurement systems, radar, Cospas-SARSAT, Kalman filters, etc. are designed and used for aviation, maritime, communication, and public safety.
  • To understand how GPS works, and what it can and cannot do.

When This Course is Typically Offered

The course is typically offered online during the spring and fall terms.


  • Historical perspectives
  • Vectors and coordinate systems
  • Surveying: great and simple circles
  • Mathematics of surveying and cartography
  • Least squares and Kalman filters
  • Astonomy and intro to Celestial navigation
  • Orbits and orbitology
  • Special and general relativity; inertial nav
  • Radio Navigation
  • GPS, Transit, and Cospas-Sarsat
  • Sextants and celestial fixes
  • Nautical navigation
  • Spacecraft navigation
  • Aircraft navigation

Student Assessment Criteria

Homework, including sextant assignment 50%
Research project/trip report 30%
Online participation in discussion fora and office hours sessions 20%

Schedule and due dates are flexible to accommodate student travel and personal needs. The project will involve visiting a facility related to navigation, and/or conducting personal research, and/or conducting interviews with technical experts in a particular field of interest.  It is a hands-on activity, not a term paper.

Computer and Technical Requirements

There are no special computer requirements.  Excel spreadsheets are provided for some assignments, but students can use MatLab or other tools as they wish.

Participation Expectations

Active participation, via the online discussion forums on Blackboard/Learn and during weekly office hours sessions using AdobeConnect, is essential.   Imaginative approaches to defining and solving problems are encouraged.


Textbook information for this course is available online through the MBS Direct Virtual Bookstore.

Course Notes

There are no notes for this course.

Final Words from the Instructor

Don't procrastinate.  Some are the assignments are difficult, as they go well beyond plug-in and crank solutions.  The journey through these problems, not the final answers, is where most of the learning occurs.  So, have fun and enjoy the trip.

(Last Modified: 01/26/2018 12:42:23 PM)