Lockheed Martin has delivered a full-sized, functional prototype of the next-generation GPS satellite to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to test facilities and pre-launch processes in advance of the arrival of the first GPS III flight satellite.
The GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) arrived at the Cape on July 19 to begin to dry run launch-base space-vehicle processing activities and other testing that future flight GPS III satellites will undergo. The first flight GPS III satellite is expected to arrive at the Cape in 2014, ready for launch by the U.S. Air Force in 2015.
The GNST arrived at the Cape by Air Force C-17 aircraft from Buckley Air Force Base near Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility (GPF) in Denver, Colorado. Prior to shipment, the GNST was developed and then completed a series of high-fidelity activities to pathfind the integration, test and environmental checkout that all production GPS III satellites undergo at Lockheed Martin’s new satellite manufacturing facility.
An innovative investment by the Air Force under the original GPS III development contract, the GNST has helped to identify and resolve development issues prior to integration and test of the first GPS III flight space vehicle (SV 01). Following the Air Force’s rigorous “back-to-basics” acquisition approach, the GNST has gone through the development, test and production process for the GPS III program first, significantly reducing risk for the flight vehicles, improving production predictability, increasing mission assurance and lowering overall program costs.
“We call the GNST a ‘pathfinder’ because it has truly blazed the trail for every one of our GPS III processes from initial development, production, integration and test, and now pre-launch activities,” explained Keoki Jackson, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “All future GPS III satellites will follow this same path, so the GNST was a smart initiative to help us discover and resolve any issues in advance, implement production efficiencies, and ultimately save a tremendous amount of time and money in the long run.”
GPS III is a critically important program for the Air Force, affordably replacing aging GPS satellites in orbit, while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users. GPS III satellites will deliver three times better accuracy, include enhancements which extend spacecraft life 25 percent further than the prior GPS block, and a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.
Lockheed Martin is currently under contract for production of the first four GPS III satellites (SV 01-04), and has received advanced procurement funding for long-lead components for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth satellites (SV 05-08).