L3Harris passes critical design review for digital GPS IIIF payload

February 12, 2020  - By
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L3Harris logoThe design improves capabilities over the 70% digital payload used for GPS III space vehicles 1-10

L3Harris Technologies passed the critical design review (CDR) phase in development of a fully digital navigation payload for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS III Follow-On satellites.

CDR is a major milestone demonstrating the new payload’s design — specifically the fully digital Mission Data Unit (MDU) — is mature enough to proceed to final development, test and delivery.

The new MDU is the heart of the navigation payload and will provide more powerful signals and ensure flawless atomic clock operations. It will also provide improved capabilities over L3Harris’ 70% digital MDU used for GPS III space vehicles 1-10 (GPS III SV 1-10).

“The digital payload is flexible enough to adapt to advances in GPS technology and future warfighter mission needs,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Space and Airborne Systems, L3Harris. “Proceeding to the next stage in the GPS IIIF navigation payload development process moves the program closer to supporting evolving Air Force mission requirements.”

In September 2018, the Air Force selected GPS III prime contractor Lockheed Martin to build up to 22 GPS IIIF satellites, which add even more capabilities and technology to the new GPS III satellites — including the new fully digital navigation payload. GPS IIIF SV11 and 12 are currently under contract.

L3Harris is in a production cadence, having delivered to Lockheed Martin in July the eighth of 10 navigation payloads for the first 10 GPS III satellites.

GPS III SV 01 and 02 launched in December 2018 and August 2019 respectively, and are performing well on orbit. GPS III SV03 is expected to launch in April.

The remaining payloads are in various stages of integration with the satellites in Lockheed’s Colorado facility. L3Harris has provided navigation technology for every U.S. GPS satellite ever launched.

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About the Author:


Tracy Cozzens has served as managing editor of GPS World magazine since 2006, and also is editor of GPS World’s 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.

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