US Air Force's (USAF) third and fourth next-generation global positioning system (GPS) satellites, also known as GPS III constelation

Lockheed Martin has awarded a contract to ITT Exelis to construct navigation payloads for the US Air Force’s (USAF) third and fourth next-generation global positioning system (GPS III) satellites.

The new award follows an initial production contract for the first two GPS III satellites in May 2008 and includes options for up to ten additional spacecraft.

ITT has successfully integrated and performed the initial power up of the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) navigation payload element prototype in December 2011.

Lockheed Martin GPS III program director Keoki Jackson said, "the GPS III satellites and their superior navigation payloads are critical to sustaining and modernizing the GPS constellation and we are focused on delivering these spacecraft affordably and efficiently to meet the needs of more than one billion users worldwide."

The USAF’s GPS III programme is intended to replace ageing GPS satellites while delivering improved position, navigation and timing services, as well as provide advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.

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The USAF is planning to acquire up to 32 GPS III satellites, while the first GPS III space vehicle is scheduled to launch in 2014.

The first GPS III satellites will provide signals three times more accurate than current GPS spacecraft and deliver three times more power for military users.

The Lockheed-led GPS III team includes ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK and other sub-contractors.

The GPS constellation, for both civil and military users, is managed and operated by Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, US.

Image: USAF’s GPS III programme is intended to replace ageing GPS satellites while delivering improved advanced anti-jam capabilities. Photo: Lockheed Martin.