The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a Phase I production readiness assessment contract to Lockheed Martin for future global positioning system (GPS) III satellites in an effort to improve warfighters' capabilities.
Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will demonstrate the flexible design of the GPS III satellites over a period of 26 months.
The $5m contract was awarded to the company earlier this month.
Lockheed Martin said that its GPS III satellites can be upgraded in space to add new signals or missions.
The USAF is seeking regional military protection capability for the future GPS III satellites to better operate in specific contested and challenging environments.
Lockheed Martin navigation systems vice-president Mark Stewart said: "Lockheed Martin has already made significant progress in the area of Regional Military Protection and we are confident our GPS III will be able to bring enhanced capability to the warfighters wherever and whenever they need it.
"With this and the addition of a long-planned, fully-digital navigation payload, our GPS III design will provide the Air Force with maximum flexibility for all their current and future missions."
In December, Lockheed completed system-level thermal vacuum (TVAC) testing of the first GPS III satellite.
Seven more GPS III satellites are being produced at Lockheed Martin's GPS processing facility in Denver.
Lockheed has already completed a preliminary design review for two future requirements, the accuracy-boosting Laser Retro-reflector Array and a hosted payload for search and rescue missions, for the future GPS III satellites in 2013.
Image: Lockheed Martin's first GPS III satellite in environmental testing at the company's GPS III processing facility near Denver. Photo: courtesy of Lockheed Martin Corporation.