The last of six Global Positioning System Block IIR satellites has gone through its complete integration testing and is scheduled to be sent next month to Cape Canaveral next month for launching. Another satellite in that U.S. Air Force program was successfully launched into orbit on board a United Launch Alliance Delta II booster on March 15.
The upcoming sixth satellite in the program, currently designated L5, will carry a new demonstration payload that will send a trial radio signal. It is scheduled to be fired into orbit in June.
Lockheed Martin said in a statement earlier this month that with its navigation payload provider ITT of Clifton, N.J., it has so far constructed 21 of the IIR satellites and then upgraded eight of them as Block IIR-Ms for the U.S. Air Force.
The Global Positioning System is designed to give its operators exact time, speed and geographical location according to latitude, longitude and altitude anywhere in the world to within a few yards. The program is run by the U.S. Air Force Space Command's 2nd Space Operations Squadron -- 2SOPS -- operating out of Schriever Air Force Base, Colo. The squadron directs the operation of the GPS satellite constellation in orbit for the benefit of both civil and military operators.
Lockheed Martin said it was also leading a team of industry partners, with ITT and General Dynamics, in the race to win the contract to make the U.S. Air Force's next-generation Global Positioning System, GPS Block III.
The GPS Block III program is projected to upgrade position, navigation and timing services for military and civilian operators around the world. It is also planned to include advanced anti-jam features that will boost system security, accuracy and reliability. The U.S. Air Force is scheduled to decide on who will receive the multibillion-dollar development contract within the next few months. The Global Positioning Systems Wing, Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., will make the selection.