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The fourth Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion, following a successful 5 November launch.

In the coming days, GPS III SV04’s onboard liquid apogee engine will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit. Once it arrives, it will deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare for its handover to Space Operations Command.

GPS III SV04 is the latest next-generation GPS III satellite designed and built by Lockheed Martin to help the US Space Force modernize today’s GPS satellite constellation with new technology and capabilities. Significant capability improvements over their predecessors include:

  • Three times better accuracy;
  • Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities; and
  • A new L1C civil signal, compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s GALILEO, to improve civilian user connectivity.

GPS III SV04 will also be the 23rd Military Code (M-Code) signal-enabled GPS space vehicle in orbit, continuing the Space Force’s plan to fully field the more secure, more jam- and spoof-resistant GPS signal for military forces.

With GPS III we are focused on rapidly fielding the best capabilities to the Space Force’s Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Mission,” commented Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s Acting VP for Navigation Systems. “GPS III SV05 is already ‘available for launch’ and just waiting to be called up.” 

In early July, the Space Force also declared the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) programme had passed Milestone C, allowing it to enter the production phase. GPS IIIF satellites will add even more capabilities, including:

  • a Regional Military Protection Capability, increasing in-theatre anti-jam support to ensure US and allied forces cannot be denied access to GPS in hostile environments;
  • an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array;
  • a fully digital navigation payload; and
  • a new search and rescue payload.

So many people rely on GPS every day. Continuing to invest in GPS by adding new capabilities like those coming with GPS III/IIIF will ensure GPS remains the world’s ‘gold standard’ for PNT and just makes sense,” Ladwig added. 

GPS is part of US critical national infrastructure, driving an estimated $300 billion in annual economic benefits and responsible for $1.4 trillion since its inception. Globally, more than four billion military, civil and commercial users depend on GPS PNT signals.

The GPS III/IIIF satellites bring enhanced capabilities to the GPS constellation. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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