The Air Force has declared the second GPS III satellite complete, tested and ready to launch, the system’s manufacturer Lockheed Martin [LMT] said Tuesday.
Having the second GPS III satellite accepted by the Air Force indicates “strong momentum” for the program, which will modernize the current constellation of GPS satellites with advanced capabilities, said Johnathan Caldwell, Lockheed’s program manager for Navigation Systems in an emailed statement.
The company is on contract to build 10 satellites under the GPS III contract, Caldwell said. All 10 are in full production at Lockheed Martin’s processing facility near Denver, Colorado. The first GPS III satellite was declared launch-ready in September 2017, and was called up for launch in June. The third system is expected to be available by early 2019, he said.
“GPS III will have three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities,” the company said. “GPS III’s new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems.”
In June, the third GPS III system completed thermal vacuum testing and various environmental trials. In May, the antenna deck was added to the fourth system, “fully integrating it into a complete satellite ready to begin environmental testing,” according to Lockheed Martin.
The fifth satellite is expected to be fully assembled later this summer and systems 6 and 7 are in component build-up. “To date, more than 90 percent of parts and materials for all 10 satellites under contract have been received,” the company said.
In April, the company submitted a proposal to the government to build up to 22 additional GPS III Follow-On (GPS IIIF) satellites. The Air Force has previously said the follow-on contract could be worth up to $10 billion (Defense Daily, Nov 29, 2017).