Lockheed Gets the Nod for GPS III

May 16, 2008  - By
Image: GPS World

The U.S. Air Force finally made it official and confirmed the rumor mill: Lockheed Martin has beat out rival satellite contractor Boeing for the contract to build the first eight GPS III satellites.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and the Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. made the announcement regarding the GPS III development and production contract late Thursday, May 15. In retrospect it was not exactly a well-kept secret; rumors had swirled for at least a month if not longer that Lockheed would get the nod, and two days earlier on May 13 the Wall Street Journal reported as fact that Lockheed had won, citing unnamed sources.

Under the $1.4 billion contract, the team of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co., ITT Corp., and General Dynamics will produce eight GPS IIIA satellites, with the first launch projected for 2014, Lockheed said. The development contract will result in approximately 500 new jobs for Lockheed Martin.

Eight GPS IIIB and 16 GPS IIIC satellites are planned for later increments, with each increment including additional capabilities based on technical maturity. Taken as a whole, all of the GPS III contracts could be worth more than approximately $3.5 billion. When fully deployed, the GPS III constellation will feature a cross-linked command and control architecture, allowing the entire GPS constellation to be updated simultaneously from a single ground station, according to Lockheed. Additionally, a new spot beam capability for enhanced military (M-Code) coverage and increased resistance to hostile jamming, as well as new civilian signals, will be incorporated.

Lockheed Martin of course isn’t new to the GPS program; it designed and built 21 GPS IIR satellites for the Air Force and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-M. For GPS III, Lockheed Martin’s program management and spacecraft development effort will occur at its facilities in Newtown, Penn., with final assembly, integration and test located in Denver, according to the company. Its Sunnyvale, Calif., operations will provide various spacecraft components and a launch support team will be based at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Lockheed Martin’s flight-proven A2100 bus will serve as the GPS III spacecraft platform.

ITT, based in Clifton, N.J. will provide the navigation payload, and General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Gilbert, Ariz., will provide the Network Communications Element (NCE) which includes the UHF Crosslink and Tracking Telemetry & Command (TT&C) subsystems.

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