GPS III production update: On the road to a refreshed constellation

October 1, 2019  - By
Thermal Vacuum testing verifies that a satellite can operate in space’s extreme environment. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

Thermal Vacuum testing verifies that a satellite can operate in space’s extreme environment. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

With GPS III SV01 and SV02 now on orbit, GPS III satellites continue to roll off the production line at Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility near Denver.

Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin Space’s vice president for navigation systems, provided GPS World with an update to the entire GPS III family.

SV01. The first GPS III satellite is in a holding state pending readiness by 2SOPS [the Second Space Operations Squadron] to take the vehicle onto the system for operational checkout, a transfer expected to take place later this year, Caldwell explained. The satellite completed on-orbit testing in July.

“We’re in the process of getting the 2SOPS crews trained up to operate a GPS III vehicle,” Caldwell said. “By the end of this year, they will be able to take [SV01] into the constellation and start flying it as a live, set-healthy vehicle.”

SV02. Launched Aug. 22, SV02 is following in the footsteps of its older sibling, with a quiet checkout and no major findings. Like SV01, once it completes testing, it will stay in temporary holding until 2SOPS is ready to bring it into the constellation.

SV03. On May 27, the Air Force declared SV03 available for launch. It is now in final preparations for shipment, with an expected launch date in January 2020 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

SV04. The Air force declared SV04 available for launch; it is now in storage awaiting a launch date.

SV05. The fifth satellite is wrapping up environmental tests. Lockheed Martin anticipates that it will be available for launch early next year.

SV06. The satellite has been moved into the thermal vacuum testing chamber and begun a rigorous testing campaign before it meets the harsh environment of space.

SV07, SV08 and SV09 are on the assembly line.

GPS IIIF Satellites. In 2018, the Air Force selected Lockheed Martin to build up to 22 GPS IIIFs, adding new features and resiliency to the original GPS III satellite design. The company has been on the path to meet the critical design review for the GPS IIIF spacecraft, which is due to take place next spring.

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.