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ITT Exelis has successfully completed acceptance testing of the Non-Flight Satellite Testbed’s navigation payload element.

The system is designed for integration into the US Air Force’s next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite.

The pathfinder unit has been delivered by ITT Exelis for thermal vacuum testing and space vehicle integration, which is to take place at prime contractor Lockheed Martin’s GPS Processing Facility (GPF) in Denver, Colorado, US.

ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems Precision Instruments and Positioning, Navigation and Timing Systems vice president and general manager, Mark Pisani, said the company will now prepare to deliver the navigation panel to Lockheed for integration into the space vehicle.

"The completion of this programme milestone is testimony to the fact that we are focused on delivering GPS III capabilities to meet the needs of more than one billion users worldwide,” Pisani added.

Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems mission area vice president, Keoki Jackson, said the company will also focus on GNST Navigation panel integration onto its pathfinder vehicle, to simultaneously minimise programme risk, while enabling efficient and affordable satellite production.

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By GlobalData

ITT integrated and performed the initial power up of the GPS III GNST navigation payload element prototype in December 2011, and is currently developing navigation payloads for the third and fourth satellites, as part of a $32m contract awarded by Lockheed in March 2012.

Scheduled for launch in 2014, the GPS III is a next-generation communication satellite designed to replace the ageing GPS satellites used by the military and civilian customers across the globe.

The satellite is expected to provide improved position, navigation and timing services, in addition to advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.

USAF is planning to acquire up to 32 GPS III satellites from the Lockheed-led team, which includes ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK and other sub-contractors.

Image: A depiction of the USAF’s next-generation GPS III satellite constellation in orbit. Photo: courtesy of Nasa.