Lockheed’s Next GPS III Satellite is Now Ready for Deployment

The GPS satellite constellation is about to get its next dose of new technology and more advanced capabilities. The second next-generation, Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite – nick-named ‘Magellan’ by the US Air Force -- is sealed up and ready to launch (planned for July 25).

On June 26, Lockheed Martin Space and United Launch Alliance (ULA) technicians completed encapsulating the GPS III Space Vehicle 02 (GPS III SV02) in its launch fairings at the company's Astrotech Space Operations facility, where the satellite underwent pre-launch processing and fueling since its March 19 arrival in Florida. This final step enclosed the GPS III SV02 in a protective, aerodynamic, nose-cone shell.

In the coming days, the enclosed GPS III SV02 satellite will be mounted to a ULA Delta IV rocket for launch. The current window for launch on July 25 opens at 10:55 a.m. ET. GPS III SV02 is launching just a brisk seven months after the nation's first GPS III satellite lifted off back in December. 

GPS III satellite production and launch cadence is picking up. On May 27, the Air Force declared the next GPS III satellite, GPS III SV03, ‘Available for Launch,’ pending an official launch date.

More GPS III Satellites are in the production line and space vehicles 04, 05 and 06 already fully-assembled and in various stages of testing. And space vehicles 07 and 08 are being built up at the component assembly-level now. It is a smooth, efficient, methodical process.

Lockheed Martin is under contract to develop and build up to 32 GPS III/IIIF satellites for the Air Force. GPS III will deliver three times better accuracy and provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. GPS III's new L1C civil signal will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Galileo.

Additional GPS ‘IIIF’ capabilities will start being added with the 11th satellite. These will include a fully-digital navigation payload, a Regional Military Protection capability, an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, and a Search & Rescue payload.