Harris Corp. [HRS] has delivered its sixth advanced navigation payload to Lockheed Martin [LMT] as part of the Air Force’s GPS III satellite program, the company said Nov. 1.

The latest payload is the third GPS III system that Lockheed Martin has received from Harris in the last 12 months, the company said in a release. Harris plans to deliver the seventh of 10 total payloads for the program by the end of 2018.

The GPS III program is a platform that could use improved acquisition. Photo: Lockheed Martin.
The GPS III program is a platform that could use improved acquisition. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin received Harris’ navigation payload for “GPS III satellite Space Vehicle 06” in August, and it has already been installed into the space vehicle, said Chip Eschenfelder, Lockheed Martin spokesman in an email. 

“Once satellite integration is complete, it will be ready to begin a range of rigorous environmental testing, which ensures the satellite will not have any problems facing harsh launch and orbital environments,” he said. The sixth GPS III vehicle is scheduled to be “available for launch” for the Air Force in 2020, and the service will determine the final launch date, he added.

Harris provided the payloads for the last five GPS III satellites, which are all in various phases of testing or launch readiness.

In August, the first vehicle in the program was shipped to Cape Canaveral, Florida for an expected Dec. 15 launch. That same month, the Air Force declared the second GPS III satellite “available for launch” and expect to launch it in 2019. The GPS III SV03 and SV04 are fully assembled and in environmental testing, while the fifth vehicle was integrated with its payload in fall 2018 and is expected to begin system testing later this year.

In 2017, Harris completed development of a fully digital mission data unit (MDU) to enhance the navigational payloads for the Air Force’s GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program. The current payloads going into GPS III satellites have MDUs that are about 70 percent digital, according to the company. 

“The new GPS IIIF payload design will further enhance the satellite’s capabilities and performance,” the release said. The Air Force in September selected Lockheed Martin to build up to 22 additional GPS IIIF satellites, and awarded the company a $1.3 billion contract for the first two systems  (Defense Daily, Sept. 26).