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Boeing, Lockheed Battle For Big-Money GPS III Prize

By | August 27, 2007

      The Boeing Co. [BA] and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], the two largest defense contractors on the planet, are squaring off today in a battle for the rich initial GPS III program.

      GPS III is to be the next-generation global positioning system navigation asset, eventually involving a huge constellation of satellites that will begin to appear in the heavens under this contract.

      At stake in the bidding are billions of Air Force dollars for the winner.

      The existing GPS system is one of the most successful programs ever seen, providing not only accurate information on enemy locations, but also signals to guide weapons platforms and munitions to demolish those enemies.

      Perhaps even more successful are the ubiquitous civilian applications of GPS technologies, ranging from electronic on-board directions to motorists seeking to find their destinations, to potentially life-saving coordinates data that can pinpoint where rescuers can find lost hikers in remote areas. Law enforcement agencies use ankle bracelets to keep track of miscreants’ whereabouts.

      And GPS may someday help lessen gridlock in the skies by permitting commercial airliners to fly directly to destinations, rather than using fixed airways routes.

      GPS III would be an advanced version of the navigation system, with greater accuracy in pinpointing locations.

      It will be lofted into orbiting positions throughout the next decade.

      But GPS III will face competition. Europe, for example, will place its Galileo system in space, providing a non-U.S. alternative for satellite-system navigational assistance.

      And Russia, which in many areas is posing renewed rivalry with the United States, plans that the Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) constellation of 24 satellites will be in place before the end of the decade. How dependable its satellites may be, since some are aged, remains to be seen.

      The U.S. GPS III system would have more birds, but it would be fully in place roughly a decade later.

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