GPS III: The Future of Global Positioning Systems
The first most powerful Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite ever designed and built for the U.S. Air Force launched December 23, 2018. Lockheed Martin’s GPS III satellites will have three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. Spacecraft life will extend to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest GPS satellites on-orbit today. GPS III’s new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite broadcasting a compatible signal with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Galileo, improving connectivity for civilian users.
GPS Satellites Today
GPS III Production
Today, Lockheed Martin is under contract with options for up to 32 GPS III and GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) satellites. These satellites are being assembled and tested at the company’s nearly 40,000 sq. ft. GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, Colorado. The $128 million, state-of-the-art, manufacturing factory was designed in a virtual reality environment to maximize production effectiveness and efficiency. Opened in 2011, the GPF includes a specialized cleanroom and test chambers designed to streamline satellite production. Lockheed Martin is focused on providing the Air Force an affordable, resilient, low-risk GPS III solution.
GPS III Design and Capabilities
As new technology emerges, or as the Air Force’s mission needs change, Lockheed Martin’s unique GPS III satellite was designed with a flexible, modular architecture to allow for the straight-forward, low-risk insertion of new capabilities.
GPS III satellites will also be compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, which will allow users the ability to receive signals from any country’s satellites, maximizing their chances of receiving a strong and accurate signal, whether in a natural valley or an urban canyon.
Perhaps most important, GPS III satellites will be harder to jam—either by accidental transmissions or by enemies. This gives military users assured access to GPS when and where it matters most.
As GPS III evolves, as part of the Air Force’s GPS IIIF acquisition, the satellite’s design will incorporate a new, fully digital navigation payload, an accuracy-enhancing Laser Retro-reflector Array, a Regional Military Protection (RMP) capability and a government-furnished Search & Rescue payload.
Additionally, all future Lockheed Martin GPS III satellites have validated compatibility with the next generation Operational Control System (OCX) and the existing GPS constellation, significantly mitigating risks from adding GPS III to the constellation.
The bottom line? Improved safety, signal integrity and unbelievable accuracy.
With GPS III, the next generation of GPS satellites being designed and built by Lockheed Martin, signals will be three times more accurate than the current generation. What does that mean for users? Better accuracy anywhere in the world. For military users, the signals will be more powerful, with up to eight times improved jamming resistance and availability for critical missions worldwide.
The new satellites will also be compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, which will allow users the ability to receive signals from any country’s satellites, maximizing their chances of receiving a strong and accurate signal, whether in a natural valley or an urban canyon.
GPS Satellite History
The first GPS satellites were initially launched for the U.S. Department of Defense in 1978, but over the years many organizations have played a role in their refinement. Lockheed Martin designed and built 12 GPS IIR satellites and, then, at the Air Force’s request, built eight more spacecraft with additional signal capabilities, which the Air Force designated GPS IIR-M.
Today about 60 percent of the current GPS constellation is made up of Lockheed Martin-designed and built GPS IIR satellites, which began launching in 1997, and the first M-Code capable GPS satellites, the GPS IIR-M, which began launching in 2005.
Lockheed Martin is proud to be a part of the Air Force’s GPS III team. The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.