USAF’s second Lockheed-built GPS III satellite ready for launch

9 July 2019 (Last Updated July 9th, 2019 12:05)

The US Air Force’s (USAF) second next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite built by Lockheed Martin has been declared ready for its planned launch this month.

USAF’s second Lockheed-built GPS III satellite ready for launch
GPS III Space Vehicle 02 ‘Magellan’ arrives in Florida in preparation for its July launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: USAF / Lt Daniel Eichman.

The US Air Force’s (USAF) second next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite built by Lockheed Martin has been declared ready for its planned launch this month.

Named ‘Magellan’ in honour of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, GPS III Space Vehicle 02 (GPS III SV02) arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, in March.

Since its arrival, the satellite has been put through pre-launch processing and fuelling activities.

Lockheed Martin Space technicians teamed up with United Launch Alliance (ULA) personnel to encapsulate the second GPS III satellite.

The encapsulation involved enclosing GPS III SV02 in a protective, aerodynamic, nose-cone shell. It was completed last month.

The satellite is planned to be launched on board a ULA Delta IV rocket on 25 July.

Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems vice-president Johnathon Caldwell said: “GPS III SV02 is launching just a brisk seven months after the nation’s first GPS III satellite lifted off back in December. The first satellite’s performance during on-orbit testing has exceeded expectations.

“We are excited to deploy more GPS III satellites so this new technology and capabilities can be distributed constellation-wide.”

In May this year, the USAF declared the third GPS III satellite as ‘Available for Launch’.

Caldwell added: “More GPS III satellites are coming. If you looked at our production line back in Denver today you would see GPS III space vehicles four, five and six already fully assembled and in various stages of testing.

“And space vehicles seven and eight are being built up at the component assembly level now. It is a smooth, efficient, methodical process.”

GPS III satellites are designed to provide three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.

The USAF aims to modernise the legacy GPS constellation with new technology and capabilities.

The first GPS III satellite, GPS III SV01, was launched in December last year.

Lockheed Martin is building these satellites under a USAF contract to build ten GPS III satellites.

Last year, the service selected the company for a $7.2bn project to build up to 22 GPS IIIF satellites, equipped with advanced features.

The company assembles and tests the satellites at its GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, Colorado, US.

It plans to start adding additional GPS “IIIF” capabilities at the 11th satellite. These upgrades will feature a fully digital navigation payload, a regional military protection capability, an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, and a search and rescue payload.