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Lockheed readies GPS III launch in 2014

An artistic conception of GPS III.

NEWTOWN (BNS): US Air Force's next generation Global Positioning System (GPS) programme is moving ahead with Lockheed Martin preparing for the scheduled launch of the first GPS III satellite in 2014.

As a step forward, the satellite's manufacturer has turned on initial power to the programme's pathfinder spacecraft, known as GPS III Non Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST).

The Lockheed team is developing the GNST - a full-sized prototype of the GPS III spacecraft used to identify and solve issues prior to the first space vehicle.

Successfully powering on the GNST demonstrates initial mechanical integration, validates the GNST's interfaces and leads the way for electrical and integrated hardware-software testing, Lockheed said.

"Turning initial power on for the GNST is a major milestone for the GPS III team demonstrating we are well on track to deliver the first satellite for launch in 2014," Lt Col Don Frew, the US Air Force's GPS III programme manager, said.

The prototype spacecraft will be shipped to Lockheed's GPS III Processing Facility in Denver late this year to demonstrate assembly, integration and test procedures. It will then be delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in the summer for 2012 for pathfinding activities at the launch site.

Lockheed has been contracted by the USAF to build the advanced GPS III systems. Under the first contract, awarded in May 2008, the Lockheed-led team is to build two GPS IIIA satellites, with first launch projected for 2014.

When fully deployed, the GPS III constellation will feature a cross-linked command and control architecture, allowing the entire GPS constellation to be updated simultaneously from a single ground station.

GPS III will improve position, navigation and timing services and provide advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.



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