The sixth Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite designed and built by Lockheed Martin has been launched and is propelling to its operational orbit approximately 12,550 miles / 20,197 km above Earth, where it will contribute to the ongoing modernization of the U.S. Space Force’s GPS constellation.
GPS III Space Vehicle 06 (GPS III SV06) launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:24 a.m. EST on January 18, 2023. About 83 minutes after liftoff, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company’s Denver Launch & Checkout Operations Center confirmed signal acquisition of GPS III SV06 and now have the space vehicle «flying» under their control.
GPS III SV06 is the 25th Military-Code satellite introduced to the constellation. The satellite will provide advanced technology to aide Space Force operators in their mission by providing Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) data to military and civil users worldwide.
«Lockheed Martin is incredibly proud to support the Space Force’s GPS team as it continues to add world-class capabilities that underpin U.S. national security with enhanced performance and accuracy», said Andre Trotter, Lockheed Martin vice president for Navigation Systems. «With the last GPS III satellite complete and ready to launch, production of the first GPS IIIF vehicle is underway».
GPS is a satellite-based radio navigation system that delivers the gold standard in PNT services to America’s military, U.S. allies and civil users. The satellites serve as a crucial technological foundation for internet, financial, transportation and agricultural operations, with more than 4 billion users depending on the PNT signals.
GPS III vehicles provide three times greater accuracy and eight times greater anti-jamming capability over existing satellites in the constellation. To better address mission needs and emerging threats, Lockheed Martin intentionally created GPS III with a modular design, allowing new technology and capabilities to be added in the future.
Lockheed Martin has completed production on its original GPS III SV1-10 contract, with the Space Force declaring SV10 Available for Launch on December 8, 2022. GPS III SV06 will soon join SV01-05 in orbit. GPS III SV07-10 are completed and in storage at the company’s facility waiting for the U.S. Space Force to call them up for launch.
Lockheed Martin is also designing and building the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) for the Space Force, which will feature even more innovative capabilities than its predecessors. GPS IIIF satellites will feature an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, a new search and rescue payload, a fully digital navigation payload and more next-generation technology. In November 2022, Space Systems Command announced it exercised the third production option valued at approximately $744 million for the procurement of three additional GPS IIIF satellites from Lockheed Martin, meaning the company is now contracted to build SV11-20.