Spaceflight Insider

U.S. Air Force declares first GPS III satellite ‘Available for Launch’

A GPS III satellite in orbit

Artist’s rendering of GPS III satellite in orbit. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

On Tuesday, October 10, 2017, the U.S. Air Force declared that the first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite will be “Available for Launch” in 2018. The “AFL” declaration from the Air Force is the final acceptance of the first GPS III Space Vehicle (GPS III SV01) prior to its expected launch in 2018. GPS III SV01 will provide U.S. and allied military forces with new capabilities, and a new civil signal will provide improved connectivity worldwide for commercial and civilian users.

GPS III satellite (SV01). Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

GPS III SV01. (Click to enlarge) Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin

Advanced GPS III capabilities

GPS III satellites will have three times greater accuracy current GPS satellites and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. GPS III satellites will have an expended operational life of 15 years, 25 percent longer than GPS satellites currently in orbit.

GPS III will be the first GPS satellite to broadcast L1C, a new civilian signal designed to enable interoperability between GPS and International Global Navigational Satellite Systems (GNSS), such as Europe’s Galileo. In the future, users of civilian GPS receivers will able to connect to L1C from multiple GNSS constellations.

GPS III has a modular design which will allow for the addition new technology as it becomes available or as mission requirements change. Satellites using this design will be compatible with both the Air Force’s next-generation Operational Control System (OCX) and the existing GPS constellation.

“As we designed GPS III, we knew that mission needs would change in the future and that new technology will become available. We wanted the satellite to be flexible to adapt to those changes,” said Mark Stewart, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “To do that, we intentionally developed GPS III with a modular design. This allows us to easily insert new technology into our production line.”

GPS III SV01 is the first of ten GPS III satellites that Lockheed Martin is building at its GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, Colorado. GP III SV02, the second GPS III satellite, recently completed acoustic environmental testing and will undergo Thermal Vacuum (TVAC) before being delivered to the Air Force in early 2018.

“Lockheed Martin’s GPS III team owes much of its success to the Air Force’s Back to Basics program,” Stewart added. “We are proud to partner with the Air Force on this important program and look forward to launching the first GPS III satellite in 2018.”

Video courtesy of Lockheed Martin



Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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