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Lockheed, Raytheon complete 1st launch exercise for next-gen GPS sats

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An artist's rendering of the GPS III satellite. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

NEWTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA (BNS): Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin have successfully completed the first launch readiness exercise for the US Air Force's next generation GPS III satellites.

The exercise is a key milestone demonstrating the team remains on schedule to achieve launch availability in 2014, according to a statement by Lockheed Martin.

The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellites and the Raytheon-developed next generation GPS operational control system, known as OCX, are critical elements of the US Air Force's effort to affordably replace aging GPS satellites while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users worldwide.

This is the first space and ground enterprise successfully building the ground control and space vehicles by two independent prime contractors.

"Completion of our first GPS III launch readiness exercise is a major milestone for the entire GPS enterprise and is a solid indictor that our space and ground segments are well synchronised," Col Bernie Gruber, the director of the US Air Force's Global Positioning Systems Directorate, was quoted as saying in the statement.

The launch readiness exercise, completed over a three day period by mission operations personnel, validated the basic satellite command and control functions, tested the software and hardware interfaces and demonstrated basic on-console procedures required for space vehicle contacts during the launch and early orbit mission.

The event sets the stage for the first GPS III satellite's mission readiness timeline, which includes five short-duration exercises and six, five day mission rehearsals leading up to launch, the report added.

"This achievement is a testament to efficient planning and synchronisation by the US Air Force and demonstrates that we are on track to deliver critical GPS III capabilities to military, commercial and civilian users worldwide," said Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Navigation Systems mission area.

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