SMC To Procure Two Additional GPS III Satellites From Lockheed Martin

GPSIII prior to anechoic testing. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

GPSIII prior to anechoic testing. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

September 22, 2016 – The U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has awarded Lockheed Martin $395 million in contract options to complete production of its ninth and tenth next-generation Global Positioning System III satellites.

“The GPS III SV 9 and 10 satellites are expected to be ready for launch in 2022, thus sustaining the GPS constellation and the global unity the world has come to expect,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile System Center’s commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space.

GPS III is an important program for the Air force, affordably replacing aging GPS satellites in orbit, while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users. GPS III satellites will deliver better accuracy and improved anti-jamming power while enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.

Designed with evolution in mind, GPS III satellites will also be able to offer on-orbit re-programmability, so they can be upgraded in space to add new signals or missions, a first for the GPS constellation.

In May 2008, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin an initial contract to design, develop and build the first two GPS III satellites. The contract included options for up to ten additional spacecraft.

GPS III satellites 1-8 are currently in various stages of production at Lockheed Martin’s GPS Processing Facility (GPF) in Littleton, Colorado. The GPF creates an unparalleled production line for satellites, allowing for extremely efficient GPS III spacecraft manufacturing.

The GPF, built in the company’s former rocket assembly building, has nearly 50,000 square feet of spacecraft assembly and test area, including a clean room high bay and dedicated thermal vacuum and anachoic test chambers. The high bay was designed to flow with maximum efficiency by minimizing space vehicle lifts and distances between operations. Similar to aircraft and automobile production, each GPS III satellites moves through sequential work stations for various assembly and integration operations, culminating with environmental test procedures.

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

The Air Force has plans to build up to 32 GPS III satellites and expects to compete future purchases beginning with GPS III SV 11. This competition will maintain the current technical baselines of GPS III, and will add additional hosted payloads to increase system accuracy, search and rescue capability, and universal S-Band compatibility.

Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users. The GPS constellation provides precise positioning, navigation, and timing services worldwide seven days a week, 24-hours a day.

The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base in California. Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with teammates Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honewell, Orbital ATK and other subcontractors.

The U.S. Air Force’s next generation GPS III will provide:

  • Three times better accuracy

  • Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities

  • Extended spacecraft life to 15 years, more than 25 percent longer than any previous GPS satellites

  • A new L1C civil signal that will make GPS III the first GPS satellite interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems like Galileo and GLONASS. This will maximize chances of receiving a strong and accurate system, regardless of where the user is.