Lockheed Martin [LMT] shipped the third GPS III space vehicle to Cape Canaveral Feb. 5, and the latest GPS satellite dubbed “Columbus” will be prepared for a scheduled launch in April, the company said Feb. 10.
The delivery is the first for a GPS satellite to the U.S. Space Force since the new service was established last December. The company shipped the space vehicle from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, to the Cape on an Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft.
It follows the two initial GPS III satellites, the first of which was launched in December 2018 and is currently operating in the GPS constellation. The second space vehicle was launched in August 2019, and has completed its on-orbit testing and awaits integration into the constellation.
GPS Space Vehicle 4 was called up by the U.S. military for a launch later this summer, according to Lockheed Martin. The next five satellites in the queue are in various stages of assembly and test at the company’s facility outside Denver.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the GPS III and GPS III Follow-On programs, which together include up to 32 next-generation GPS satellites. The company expects to complete critical design review for the GPS III Follow-On program “soon,” to then begin building the first two systems.
The Space Force fiscal year 2021 presidential budget request, released Feb. 10, includes $664 million in procurement funds to buy the 14th and 15th GPS III space vehicles. It continues additional funding to upgrade the GPS constellation and its associated ground control systems, including $482 million for the Raytheon[RTN]-led Operations Control System (OCX) and $391 million for military GPS user equipment.