Lockheed Martin prepares latest satellite in updated GPS constellation for launch

Max Blenkin

The latest addition to the improved global positioning system (GPS) constellation is near to launch.

Lockheed Martin prepares latest satellite in updated GPS constellation for launch
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The second Lockheed Martin GPS III SV02 satellite has been sealed up in its capsule for the planned launch on 25 July.

Next step is to mount the capsule onto a ULA Delta IV rocket for the launch from Cape Canaveral.

"GPS III SV02 is launching just a brisk seven months after the nation's first GPS III satellite lifted off back in December. The first satellite's performance during on-orbit testing has exceeded expectations," said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin vice president for navigation systems.

"We are excited to deploy more GPS III satellites so this new technology and capabilities can be distributed constellation-wide."

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GPS was launched as a US military-only project in 1973, with the initial constellation of 24 satellites declared fully operational in 1995.

GPS proved a game changer but because it was initially only available for the US and ally militaries, Russia, China and the European Union have developed their own systems.

Subsequently, the system has been upgraded and is now part of daily life.

GPS III provides significantly enhanced capability. Lockheed Martin, which is under contract to develop and build up to 32 GPS III/IIIF satellites for the US Air Force, said it would deliver three times better accuracy and provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

It includes additional navigation signals for civil and military users. GPS III's new L1C civil signal will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems, like the EU’s Galileo system.

Lockheed Martin said the GPS III satellite production and launch cadence was picking up.

On 27 May, the USAF declared the next GPS III satellite, GPS III SV03, available for launch, pending an official launch date.

More GPS III satellites are coming. If you looked at our production line back in Denver today you would see GPS III space vehicles 04, 05 and 06 already fully-assembled and in various stages of testing,” Caldwell said.

“And space vehicles 07 and 08 are being built up at the component assembly level now. It is a smooth, efficient, methodical process."

Additional GPS IIIF capabilities will start being added at satellite 11. These will include a fully-digital navigation payload, a Regional Military Protection capability, an accuracy enhancing laser retroreflector array and a search and rescue payload.

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