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GPS III Payload Arrives, Platform Acceptance Tests Next

September 22, 2014  - By
Image: GPS World

Enter GPS III. The long-awaited navigation payload for the next-generation satellite pulled into its new temporary home over the September 13 weekend, the Lockheed Martin Space Systems facility in Littleton, Colorado. Lockheed is the U.S. Air Force’s  prime contractor for the first batch of eight GPS III satellites.

Exelis Geospatial Systems has committed to delivering the payloads for the second, third, and fourth GPS III satellites “right on the heels” of the first, according to Gen. John Hyten, commander of Air Force Space Command. “If that’s the case, in the not-too-distant future GPS III will be in good shape,” he added. The first GPS III launch is now scheduled for 2016.

Exelis has built GPS payloads since the beginning of the program, but found new challenges over the last two years posed by advanced features of the modernized version. “First-time development and integration issues, including design changes to eliminate signal crosstalk” have set back the schedule.

According to reports, Lockheed Martin has a group of initial platforms readied on its production line to take the incoming payloads.

Still ahead, completion of acceptance testing following integration with the first satellite platform.

Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin issued a request for information on alternate payload providers, and received responses from five companies. In June, the Air Force issued a call for contractors interested in building the next batch of GPS IIIs. Northrop Grumman and Boeing have responded.