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The second next-generation GPS III satellite built by Lockheed Martin – called MAGELLAN by the US Air Force (USAF) – stands ready for its scheduled 25 July liftoff, the company announced on 8 July.

Lockheed Martin Space and United Launch Alliance (ULA) technicians completed encapsulation of the GPS III Space Vehicle 02 (GPS III SV02) on 26 June, enclosing it in a protective aerodynamic nosecone. The space vehicle will now be mounted to a ULA DELTA IV rocket for launch.

GPS III SV02 is launching just a brisk seven months after the first GPS III satellite lifted off back in December. The first satellite’s performance during on-orbit testing has exceeded expectations,” commented Lockheed Martin Vice President for Navigation Systems, Johnathon Caldwell. “We are excited to deploy more GPS III satellites so this new technology and capabilities can be distributed constellation-wide.”

GPS III satellite production and launch cadence is picking up, with the USAF declaring GPS III SV03 ‘available for launch’ on 27 May, pending an official launch date.

More GPS III satellites are coming. If you looked at our production line back in Denver today you would see GPS III space vehicles 04, 05 and 06 already fully-assembled and in various stages of testing. And space vehicles 07 and 08 are being built up at the component assembly level now,” Caldwell added. “It is a smooth, efficient, methodical process.”

Lockheed Martin is under contract to develop and build up to 32 GPS III/IIIF satellites for the Air Force. GPS III will deliver three times better accuracy and provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. GPS III's new L1C civil signal will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems, like GALILEO.

Additional GPS IIIF capabilities will begin being added from the 11th satellite. These will include a fully-digital navigation payload, a Regional Military Protection capability, an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, and a search and rescue payload.

The GPS III constellation will significantly improve accuracy and reliability for military users in particular. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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