The US Air Force’s (USAF) next-generation Global Positioning System (GPS) pathfinder spacecraft, the GPS III Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), has reached a milestone with initial powering on the GNST.

The turn on of power demonstrated initial mechanical integration, validated the GNST’s interfaces and highlighted the progress towards electrical and integrated hardware-software testing.

USAF GPS III programme manager lieutenant colonel Don Frew said: "Turning initial power on for the GNST is a major milestone for the GPS III team, demonstrating we are well on track to deliver the first satellite for launch in 2014."

The GNST will undergo further assembly, integration and test procedures later this year and pathfinding activities in summer 2012.

The Lockheed Martin-led GPS III team is developing the GNST, a full-sized prototype of the GPS III spacecraft, to identify and solve issues prior to the launch of the first space vehicle.

The USAF’s GPS III programme is intended to improve position, navigation and timing services, and provide advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.