DENVER, July 15 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin has completed antenna assemblies for the first of eight GPS III satellites that will replace aging craft orbiting the Earth.
The satellite system is critical to civilian, commercial and military communications operated under U.S. Air Force oversight. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor in a program that includes several other aviation and space manufacturers.
Delivery of the equipment included the navigation, communication and hosted payload antenna assemblies for the first satellite of the next generation Global Positioning System.
The antenna assemblies were produced at Lockheed Martin's Newtown, Pa., facility and were delivered to the company's GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, Colo., June 14, the company announced Monday. In all, seven antenna assemblies were delivered.
The equipment will be installed on the first GPS III space vehicle called SV01, which is due for "flight-ready" delivery to the Air Force next year.
With the new antenna assemblies in place, the SV01 will be able to send or receive data for Earth-coverage and military Earth-coverage navigation.
Other capabilities for the system include an ultra-high-frequency crosslink for inter-satellite data transfer, telemetry, tracking and control for satellite-ground communications.
Data acquisition and communication for a nuclear detection system hosted payload is also provided in the system.
The antenna designs enable three to eight times greater anti-jamming signal power to be broadcast to military users across the globe when compared with previous GPS configurations.
"These antennas on the next generation of GPS III satellites will transmit data utilized by more than one billion users with navigation, positioning and timing needs," Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Navigation Systems mission area, said.
"We have become reliant on GPS for providing signals that affect everything from cellphones and wristwatches, to shipping containers and commercial air traffic, to [automated teller machines] and financial transactions worldwide."
Lockheed Martin says 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 that extend spacecraft life 25 percent beyond the prior GPS block, and a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.
Lockheed Martin is under contract to produce the first four GPS III satellites and received advanced procurement funding for long-lead components for the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth satellites.
Tests in June produced positive results, leading to high-fidelity path-finding events.
GPS satellites are used by the NAVSTAR GPS. Navstar 1, the first satellite in the system, was launched Feb. 22, 1978. The GPS satellite constellation is operated by the Air Force's 50th Space Wing. Rockwell International was awarded a contract in 1974 to build the first eight Block I satellites for the program.
Hailed as "an innovative investment" by the Air Force under the original GPS III development contract, recent tests aimed to identify and resolve development issues before integration and test of the first vehicle.
The company says the Air Force has adopted a rigorous "back-to-basics" acquisition approach, significantly reducing risk and lowering costs.
Lockheed Martin has headquarters in Bethesda, Md., and employs 118,000 people worldwide. The company reported net sales of $47.2 billion last year.