The US Space Force has received its first global positioning system (GPS) III satellite in Florida from Lockheed Martin ahead of an expected launch in April.

Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin shipped the third next-generation GPS III space vehicle (GPS III SV03) to Cape Canaveral from its GPS III Processing Facility located near Denver.

The satellite was shipped on board a US Air Force C-17 aircraft travelling from Buckley Air Force Base in Colorado.

GPS III SV03 (Columbus) is the latest of up to 32 next-generation GPS III/GPS III Follow-On (GPS IIIF) satellites designed by Lockheed Martin.

The satellites will help the US Space Force upgrade existing GPS constellation with new technology and capabilities.

Lockheed Martin GPS III programme manager Tonya Ladwig said: “Every day, more than four billion civil, commercial and military users rely on the Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) services provided by 31 GPS satellites launched since 1997.

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“We are excited to help the space force refresh the constellation to ensure US and allied forces always have the best technology and that the US Global Positioning System remains the gold standard for PNT.”

Developed with a completely new design for the US and allied forces, GPS III has greater accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

Its modular design will allow new GPS IIIF capabilities to start being added at the 11th satellite.

Capabilities will include a fully digital navigation payload, a regional military protection capability, a laser retroreflector array, and a search and rescue payload.

The first GPS III satellite, GPS III SV01 (Vespucci), built by Lockheed Martin was set ‘healthy and active’ by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) at Schriever Air Force Base last month.

GPS III SV02 (Magellan) was delivered by the company in March last year and launched the following August.

At present, GPS III SV05-09 satellites are in various stages of assembly and test at Lockheed Martin’s production line near Denver.

Critical design review with the space force is expected to complete soon, which will be followed by the production on the first two GPS IIIF satellites under contract.