GPS III satellite

Lockheed Martin’s Mississippi Space & Technology Center has delivered the propulsion core module for the US Air Force’s (USAF) first Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite to the company’s GPS Processing Facility (GPF) in Denver, Colorado, US.

Marking the programme’s first hardware delivery for the first GPS III vehicle, the event also demonstrates the satellite’s initial assembly, integration and test activities at the GPF.

USAF GPS III programme manager, lieutenant colonel Todd Caldwell, said the propulsion core delivery highlights both the programme’s stability and ability to deliver its commitments.

"In this challenging budget environment, we are focused on efficient programme execution to deliver critical new capabilities to GPS users worldwide,” Caldwell added.

Encapsulating the integrated propulsion system, the module serves as the satellite’s structural backbone and is required for directing the vehicle during transfer orbit to its final location, and also for carrying out on-orbit repositioning operations throughout its service life.

In addition to deploying a full-sized prototype, the GPS III non-flight satellite testbed (GNST), Lockheed has also modified the satellite’s plumbing routing and decreased welds by 25% in an effort to reduce risk and overall programme costs for the government.

Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems mission area vice president, said: "We are on track to deliver the first satellite for launch availability in 2014, and as we complete production pathfinding on the GNST and move into full scale satellite production, we expect to streamline our processes further, reduce risk, lower per unit costs and ensure mission success."

The GPS III programme is aimed at replacing ageing GPS satellites and provides improved position, navigation and timing services in addition to advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.

Lockheed first received a contract for design, development and production of the GNST and initial two GPS III satellites in 2008, followed by a $238m option for development of the next two vehicles in January 2012 from USAF, which is planning to acquire a total of up to 32 satellites.

Image: USAF’s GPS III satellite aims to deliver improved anti-jam capabilities to military and civilian users worldwide. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation ©.