Harris delivers seventh USAF GPS III satellite navigation payload

13 June 2019 (Last Updated June 13th, 2019 12:02)

Harris has delivered the seventh advanced navigation payload to Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force’s (USAF) Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite programme.

Harris delivers seventh USAF GPS III satellite navigation payload
Harris is Lockheed Martin’s navigation signal partner for GPS IIIF satellites. Credit: Harris Corporation.

Harris has delivered the seventh advanced navigation payload to Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force’s (USAF) Global Positioning System (GPS) III satellite programme.

The company made the delivery under a contract to provide ten navigation payloads.

The GPS III navigation payload consists of a mission data unit (MDU) designed to link atomic clocks, radiation-hardened processors and transmitters. The MDU has a 70% digital design.

Harris is supporting the GPS modernisation programme, which aims to provide a system three times more accurate than the existing GPS.

The payload delivers a boost in transmitting power to enable eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities and help extend the lifespan of the GPS satellite.

Harris’ first GPS III navigation payload was launched on the first GPS III satellite in December. The second satellite in the programme is scheduled for launch next month.

The company developed a more-capable, fully digital MDU in 2017 for the airforce’s GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) programme to further improve the satellite’s performance.

The fully digital MDU is a key component of navigation payload, which is responsible for generating GPS signals. It will deliver improved capabilities compared to the 70% digital MDU.

Last September, Lockheed Martin was selected for a follow-on contract to supply up to 22 GPS IIIF satellites to the US Air Force. The contract has an estimated value of around $7.2bn.

The first GPS IIIF satellite is anticipated to be available for launch in 2026. Lockheed chose Harris as its navigation signal partner for the GPS IIIF satellites.

In April, Harris secured a $243m follow-on contract to provide the navigation signals for the first two GPS IIIF satellites, space vehicles 11 and 12.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has delivered GPS III Contingency Operations (COps) ground system software upgrade to the USAF’s current GPS ground control system to enable the service to control the new modern GPS III satellites.

The upgrade will allow the USAF to command and control both the legacy satellites, as well as the ‘more powerful’ GPS III satellites.