Lockheed Martin has announced that it has passed a milestone in developing the upgrades for the US Air Force's (USAF) current GPS satellite ground control system.

The company's GPS III upgrades passed the critical design review, allowing it to move forward with software development and systems engineering.

Lockheed Martin navigation systems mission area vice-president Mark Stewart said: "The GPS constellation is a valuable asset to our warfighters, our nation and the world.

“This risk-reduction effort ensures the Air Force has the ability to maintain the constellation at full strength.”

Lockheed received the $96m Contingency Operations (COps) contract in February to modify the USAF's existing GPS ground control system, the architecture evolution plan (AEP) operational control segment.

The planned upgrades will allow the AEP to support the next-generation GPS Block III satellites' positioning, navigation and timing missions.

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Currently maintained by Lockheed, the AEP controls 31 GPS IIR, IIR-M and IIF satellites in orbit.

"This risk-reduction effort ensures the Air Force has the ability to maintain the constellation at full strength."

Under a separate contract, Lockheed Martin recently completed the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) upgrade #2 (CUP2) of the GPS ground control system.

The CUP2 upgrade improves the system's ability to protect data and infrastructure from internal and external cyber threats, as well as improve its overall sustainability and operability, according to the company.

Lockheed Martin is currently involved in the development of the USAF's first ten GPS III satellites.

Image: A GPS III satellite in production at Lockheed Martin. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.