The U.S. Air Force has launched a new GPS satellite that is expected to provide civilian and military users with enhanced navigation capabilities. The latest GPS Block II series satellite to be modernized by aerospace manufacturer Lockheed Martin is expected to become operational next month.
"The successful deployment of this high-performance satellite represents another important milestone in the modernization of the GPS constellation and reflects our commitment to achieving mission success for our customer," said Lockheed Martin's VP of Navigation Systems Don DeGryse.
"Our team is now focused on performing a rapid and efficient on-orbit checkout to quickly place the satellite's advanced navigational capabilities into operational service," DeGryse added.
Enhancing GPS Accuracy
Operated by the GPS wing of the U.S. Air Force, the entire 30-satellite GPS constellation currently in orbit provides the data so GPS-enabled mobile phones, dashboard-mounted devices, and other electronic gear can determine their altitude, velocity, and geographic coordinates to within just a few meters -- on the ground, at sea, or in the air. The U.S. government provides users around the globe with access to the civilian side of this system free of charge.
Like its four predecessors already in commercial service, the newly launched satellite offers better performance than the previous-generation GPS platforms by incorporating a higher-powered antenna panel and an additional open-access signal for civilian use. And the new spacecraft features encryption and antijamming enhancements that will boost the security of the weapons control and navigation gear aboard U.S. military aircraft.
Moreover, the next GPS satellite in the series, which is slated for launch in 2008, will carry a demonstration payload that will transmit an additional civil "safety of life" signal that, among other things, will improve navigation accuracy.
"Early delivery of this payload reflects our team's commitment to successful and timely program execution," said DeGryse. "We look forward to achieving mission success on this critical initiative, which will provide our customer with a much-needed on-orbit demonstration capability for this important new civil signal next year."
Lockheed Martin -- together with partners ITT and General Dynamics -- are currently competing for the award of a multibillion-dollar contract governing the construction of the constellation's next-generation GPS platforms. However, a rival team led by Boeing is vying to land the highly lucrative deal with the U.S. government.
The U.S. Air Force expects to unveil the winning bid in early 2008. Irrespective of which team ends up winning the contract, each Block III spacecraft is expected to include a fully operational payload that will support the third civil GPS signal slated for a demonstration next year.
Based in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is primarily engaged in the development, manufacture, and maintenance of advanced technology systems. The corporation, which employs about 140,000 people worldwide, generated $39.6 billion in sales during 2006.