The fourth Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) has received operational acceptance approval from the US Space Force (USSF).

This marks another milestone in the GPS III programme, Space and Missile Systems Center and USSF.

Delivery of the GPS III satellite into the operational constellation is the fourth in the past 12 months and the second in the last three months.

Furthermore, this is the first GPS III vehicle that was delivered using an expedited satellite control authority transfer process.

On 5 November, the SV04 lifted off on board SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicle.

2 SOPS DOA Flight commander captain Collin Dart said: “With the onset of SV04, the GPS constellation continues moving forward in next-generation modernisation.

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“The 2nd Space Operations Squadron is one step closer to providing Military Code (M-Code) capability for the entire 24 satellite baseline.

“The highly encrypted M-Code to protect GPS signals from jamming and spoofing is currently enabled on 22 GPS satellites of various generations; 24 are needed to bring the M-Code to the next level of operational capability.

“SV04 brings the constellation to 23 M-Code capable vehicles. SV05 will launch no earlier than July 2021. This will add the 24th M-Code capable vehicle.”

The US is committed to maintaining the availability of at least 24 operational GPS satellites for 95% of the time.

To ensure this, the USAF has been flying 31 operational satellites for the past few years.

The latest satellite will be a part of the operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites that are in medium-Earth orbit.

Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems vice-president Tonya Ladwig said: “M-Code signals are more secure, harder to jam and spoof, and are critical to helping our warfighters complete their missions, especially in contested environments.

“GPS III is a warfighting system and we are proud to be helping bring this critical capability to the men and women protecting our nation.”

According to Lockheed Martin, GPS III SV06, 07 and 08 satellites are fully assembled. They are undergoing environmental testing at the company’s GPS III Processing Facility in Denver.

GPS III SV09 and 10 are in the component build-up stage, noted the company.