The first of 10 new Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built GPS III satellites has arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla., ahead of a projected December launch date, the company said on Monday.
The system was shipped on Aug. 20 from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, to the Cape on a C-17 transport aircraft, according to a Lockheed Martin statement.
“Once on orbit, the modern technology of this first GPS III space vehicle will begin playing a major role in the Air Force’s plan to modernize the GPS satellite constellation,” said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for Navigation Systems. “We are excited to start bringing GPS III’s new capabilities to the world and proud to continue to serve as a valued partner for the Air Force’s positioning, navigation and timing mission systems.”
The second GPS III satellite was declared launch-ready by the Air Force earlier this month (Defense Daily, Aug. 22). The third satellite is expected to be ready by early 2019, according to Lockheed Martin. The fourth system will soon begin environmental testing, while the fifth, sixth and seventh satellites are in various stages of construction.
The new satellites will bring added power and resiliency over the U.S. government’s current GPS II constellation, and are expected to provide three times greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities over its predecessor. It will also be the first GPS satellite to use a new civil signal dubbed “L1C,” which will improve connectivity for commercial and civilian users.
Lockheed Martin in April 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). The GPS III satellite contract has been exercised in options, with the last being awarded in 2016 when the Air Force exercised the option for GPS III Space Vehicles 09 and 10 for $395 million, according to a Lockheed Martin spokesperson.