Lockheed Martin has completed system-level Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) testing for the US Air Forces' (USAF) first next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite.
TVAC testing involves prolonged cycles of simulated space temperature extremes in a special depressurised chamber. The test validates the design of the entire assembled satellite including the integrity and operational capabilities
Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems mission area vice-president Mark Stewart said: "TVAC is the most comprehensive and perceptive test performed at the spacecraft level.
"If there is an issue with your design or production processes, you are going to find it here.
"Successful completion of this significant test validates the thermal design of the spacecraft and verifies that all spacecraft components and interfaces operate at the temperature extremes of the space environment.
"We credit this performance to the back to basics work we performed earlier and the program's unique GPS III Non-flight Satellite Testbed."
In May 2015, the company completed the final integration of GPS III satellite that involved several major fully functional satellite components, including the navigation payload that performs the primary positioning, navigation and timing mission incorporated into the system.
The new satellite is expected to offer three times better accuracy, up to eight times enhanced anti-jamming capabilities, as well as extending spacecraft life up to 15 years.
Currently, Lockheed Martin is responsible for the production of eight GPS III satellites at its GPS III processing facility near Denver.
The company has already begun the assembling of components for the next four GPS III satellites. The second GPS III satellite is expected to be integrated and begin environmental testing in the first quarter of this year.
Image: A computer generated image of the Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force.