Spaceflight Insider

Lockheed Martin completes assembly of third GPS III satellite

GPS III SV03 Fully Integrated

Lockheed Martin technicians successfully integrated the U.S. Air Force’s third GPS III space vehicle (GPS III SV03) at its advanced clean-room facility near Denver, Colorado, on August 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Using its advanced cleanroom facility near Denver, Colorado, Lockheed Martin has fully assembled the third of its ten contracted third-generation Global Positioning System (GPS III) satellites. Lockheed Martin did not state an official delivery date for the spacecraft, dubbed GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (GPS III SV03).

Building the next generation of GPS capabilities

The spacecraft was assembled in a $128 million, 40,000-square-foot (3,716-square-meter) clean room facility, which Lockheed Martin will use to assemble all of its GPS spacecraft. The GPS III Processing Facility (GPF) opened in 2011. It includes a specialized virtual-reality environment as well as a clean room and test chambers to ensure a streamlined satellite assembly process.

The GPS III program continues to make progress, with the U.S. Air Force accepting SV01 from Lockheed Martin in October as well as the initial portion of the satellite’s control system from Raytheon earlier this month.

GPS III SV03 follows the company’s recent second satellite in the production flow. Lockheed Martin completed the integration of SV02 in May 2017, finishing its acoustic testing in July and thermal vacuum testing in August. Lockheed Martin expects to deliver SV02 to the Air Force in 2018.

Lockheed Martin received the navigation payload for SV04 in October and is now integrating that payload into the space vehicle. The fourth satellite is expected to be completely integrated in January 2018. The company also began major assembly work on SV05 in August of this year (2017).

Mark Stewart, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for Navigation Systems, said in the company’s statement about SV03: “GPS III is the most powerful and complex GPS satellite ever designed and built, and it’s now into a smooth production flow. The real credit goes to the Air Force for all the Back to Basics work done in advance, reducing program risk for all the GPS III satellites going forward. We are looking forward to bringing GPS III’s advanced capabilities to our warfighters in 2018.”

In addition to being three times more accurate than previous generations, GPS III will provide eight times more cybersecurity power for the system provided by Harris Corporation to prevent hacking, interruption, or compromised data. The Air Force expects the system to remain backward-compatible with existing GPS protocols.

The Harris payload design ensures precision via atomic-clock-based operations to provide a reliable GPS signal. It also provides the clock signal for a new GPS III Search and Rescue (SAR) payload.

SV11 and beyond

Harris’ expects its digital navigation payload for GPS III SV11 and beyond to further improve on SV01-10 performance by providing more powerful signals as well as flexibility to adapt to advances in GPS technology and potential future mission changes.

The new Harris SV11+ navigation payload also offers a smooth transition to the Air Force’s Raytheon-built GPS Operational Control System (OCX) ground control segment. The Harris payload for the first ten GPS III satellites already has been verified for OCX compatibility.

USAF awarded feasibility study contracts for SV11 and beyond to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman in 2016. The periods of performance are 26 months (July 2018) for the basic contract and six months each for the two options. This brings a total possible period of performance of 38 months (through July 2019).

Video courtesy of Lockheed Martin Videos



Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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