GPS III Satellite shipped to the Cape in preparation for flight
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Lockheed Martin has shipped the first GPS III satellite, touted as being harder-to-jam, to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station located in Florida in preparation for flight.
The GPS III SV01 was sent on its way on Aug. 20 and is the first of ten of these satellites currently under production. These spacecraft are being built in Lockheed Martin’s Colorado facilities.
The spacecraft flew out of the USAF’s Buckley Air Force Base inside a C-17 aircraft in a specialized container bound for the Sunshine State (it arrived at the Cape on Aug. 21). Lockheed Martin has described the satellite as being “…the most powerful and resilient GPS satellite ever put on orbit.”
The satellite has been named Vespucci in honor of the man whose name is the source of the Americas – Amerigo Vespucci.
“Once on orbit, the modern technology of this first GPS III space vehicle will begin playing a major role in the Air Force’s plan to modernize the GPS satellite constellation,” said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for Navigation Systems stated via a company-issued release. “We are excited to start bringing GPS III’s new capabilities to the world and proud to continue to serve as a valued partner for the Air Force’s positioning, navigation and timing mission systems.”
The satellite is designed to provide the U.S. and allied forces with three times greater accuracy and as much as eight times increased anti-jamming capabilities as opposed to the previous generation of GPS satellites (GPS II).
“The shipment of the first GPS III satellite to the launch processing facility is a hallmark achievement for the program,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Thompson, SMC commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space. “The modernization of GPS has been an outstanding collaborative effort and this brings us another step closer to launch.”
GPS III SV01 will have more clients than just those in the defense industry however. Civilian and commercial customers should also benefit from the new L1C civil signal the satellite is designed to broadcast. This signal will be shared with other navigational networks, such as Europe’s Galileo system.
“While the launch of the last GPS IIF satellite marked the end of an era, the upcoming GPS III launch will be the start of a brand new one,” said Col. Steven Whitney, director of the GPS Directorate. “It is the first of our new GPS III satellites, first to integrate with a SpaceX rocket, first to interact with elements of GPS’ Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 0, and first to have spacecraft acquisition and on-orbit checkout from Lockheed Martin facilities. We are excited to be at this point and we are ready for the upcoming launch of Vespucci.”
If everything proceeds apace, GPS III SV01 should launch this December atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40.
Video courtesy of Lockheed Martin
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.