NTS-3 experimental satellite launch delayed to 2023

April 29, 2021  - By
Image: Air Force Research Laboratory

Image: Air Force Research Laboratory

The NTS-3 experimental satellite will be launched in 2023, according to reports from C4ISRNET and Space News. The United States military will use the satellite for positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) as a supplement to GPS.

The satellite was originally set to launch in 2022.

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) plans to use the additional time to reduce risks and conduct more ground testing.

Navigation Technology Satellite 3 will help guide future GPS satellites, a priority area for the military as the technology has become easier to spoof and jam. Among other features, NTS-3 will have steerable beams for regional coverage and a software-defined payload that can be reprogrammed on orbit.

AFRL discussed the delay in a media roundtable held Wednesday, reports C4ISRNET. AFRL Commander Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle said that shift was out of the lab’s control since the satellite will launch as a rideshare with a U.S. Space Force payload, and that launch had been pushed back.

AFRL plans to experiment with the satellite in geosynchronous orbit for one year, testing PNT signals and architectures as well as ground-based command and control systems and software-defined radios. Following testing, NTS-3 will transition to the U.S. Space Force and integrate into the service’s other PNT capabilities.

In February 2020, L3Harris Technologies passed the NTS-3 project’s preliminary design review. L3Harris is the project’s prime contractor.

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.