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First GPS 3 Satellite Ready for Launch

By | October 11, 2017
GPS SV01 at Lockheed Martin's processing facility near Denver, Colorado. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

GPS SV01 at Lockheed Martin’s processing facility near Denver, Colorado. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Ushering in a new era of advanced GPS technology, the U.S. Air Force declared the first Lockheed Martin-built GPS 3 satellite, GPS 3 SV01, “available for launch” on Oct. 10. The Air Force’s declaration is the final acceptance of GPS 3 SV01 prior to its expected 2018 launch. According to the Air Force, GPS 3 SV01 will bring new capabilities to the United States and allied military forces, and a new civil signal that will improve future connectivity worldwide for commercial and civilian users.

GPS 3 SV01 now awaits a call up to begin pre-launch preparations. In the meantime, Lockheed Martin is storing the satellite in an environmentally controlled clean room, where engineers can perform maintenance and continue to service the satellite.

According to Lockheed Martin, the satellite boasts a range of improvements over previous GPS satellite designs, including three times more accuracy, improved anti-jamming capabilities and an extended life span of 15 years. Additionally, GPS 3 SV01 will be the first GPS satellite to broadcast L1C, a new common signal being adopted by other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Europe’s Galileo. In the future, users of civilian GPS receivers will be able to connect to L1C from multiple GNSS constellations.

Lockheed Martin stated it has already begun work on future requirements such as an accuracy-improving laser retro-reflector array and a search and rescue payload. With all major development risks behind them, the company is now in full production on 10 GPS 3 satellites at its GPS 3 Processing Facility near Denver, Colorado.

“As we designed GPS 3, we knew that mission needs would change in the future and that new technology will become available. We wanted the satellite to be flexible to adapt to those changes,” said Mark Stewart, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s navigation systems mission area. “To do that, we intentionally developed GPS 3 with a modular design. This allows us to easily insert new technology into our production line.”

The Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center is leading the GPS 3 team. Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.