The Air Force gave Lockheed Martin [LMT] the coveted GPS III next-generation military-civilian navigation-satellites contract over Boeing [BA], the Pentagon said recently.
That pact is worth $1.463 billion.
The new constellation of satellites will be acquired in three blocks: GPS IIIA, GPS IIIB and GPS IIIC, according to the Pentagon.
“GPA IIIA will evolve existing capabilities, introduce a new L1C civil signal, increase Earth coverage M-Code power for authorized military users, provide a graceful growth path to achieve full capabilities development document threshold requirements, and continue support for the Nuclear Detonation Detection System mission,” according to the Pentagon announcement.
The initial contract acquires two GPS IIIA research and development satellites, and a capability risk reduction and maturation effort to evolve capabilities for GPS IIIB and GPS IIIC, a GPS satellite simulator, and a bus real time simulator.
It also includes options for 10 additional GPS IIIA production satellites.
The GPS III system would provide more accurate, more powerful, less easily jammed navigation signals, an advance from the latest GPS II iteration.
GPS is used widely by both military and civilian, business and individual users.
However, many existing GPS satellites, aside from offering dated technology, are nearing the end of their design lives. GPS III satellites wouldn’t go into service for another four or five years.
The Air Force didn’t immediately explain its reasoning for selecting Lockheed Martin. Both Boeing and Lockheed Martin have extensive experience with satellites, and with launch rockets for placing satellites into orbit.
“Lockheed Martin is proud to be selected…to build the next-generation Global Positioning System Space Segment program, known as GPS III,” Lockheed Martin stated, in a comment for news media. “This win represents an important achievement for the corporation and our industry teammates, which include” ITT [ITT] and General Dynamics [GD].
The new satellite constellation “will provide improved GPS accuracy and assured availability for military and civilian users worldwide,” according to the Lockheed Martin statement.
GPS military uses include not only ship and aircraft navigation, but also help to give precision-guided munitions (smart bombs) their accuracy.
The Air Force is pressing ahead with the U.S. navigation system update, even as competing global navigation satellite systems are planned by Europe (Galileo), Russia (Glonass, or Global Navigation Satellite System) and China (Baidu). The first satellite of the European system, Giove-B, was launched into orbit on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome last month.
Development of those competing systems may be driven in part by concern that the United States could, at will, choose to switch off GPS III over a given geographical area.