The US Air Force Global Positioning Systems Wing and the 50th Space Wing will install an improved global positioning system (GPS), following a new ground system software upgrade.

The modernisation programme will include telemetry, tracking and command for the new GPS IIF space vehicle and robust security improvements.

Ahead of the first GPS IIF space vehicle launch, scheduled in the middle of 2010, the ground system is ready to command the new on-orbit GPS IIF capabilities.

A new navigation signal for civil users, encrypted military code, crosslink enhancements, improved navigation signal accuracy and signal power increases are part of the the new on-orbit GPS IIF capabilities.

Featuring robust security improvements, the new software will also support over-the-air distribution of encryption keys to properly equipped military users.

Stringent developmental and operational tests, including five transition exercises, were conducted in preparation for activation of the new software.

In November and December 2009, the new software successfully equipped operational GPS IIA and IIR space vehicles with navigation data, as well as completed normal operational functions.

The USAF and Air Force Space Command has been playing a key role in the maintenance of GPS since its conception in the 1970s.