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Lockheed Martin prepares GPS III satellite for SpaceX launch

By Stephen Carlson
Lockheed Martin prepares GPS III satellite for SpaceX launch
A GPS III satellite is shown here during assembly. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force's first GPS III satellite has been encapsulated for its planned Dec. 18 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on a SpaceX Falcon 9 satellite-delivery vehicle.

The GPS III Space Vehicle 01 has undergone pre-launch processing, fueling and other services in Titusville, Fla. The GPS III SV01 was loaded in its launch cartridge in anticipation of its coming launch.

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"The world is dependent on GPS. More than four billion military, commercial and civilian users connect with signals generated by GPS satellites every day," Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Navigation Systems Johnathon Caldwell said in a statement.

"The launch of GPS III SV01 will be the first step in modernizing the Air Force's GPS constellation with the most powerful and resilient GPS satellites ever designed and built," Caldwell said.

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The new satellites will have anti-jamming systems as part of their Regional Protection Capability. It is meant to safeguard GPS signals by U.S. and allies against electronic warfare.

The GPS IIIF satellite is meant to feature a digital navigation system and is the first of ten planned. They also mount a laser retro-reflector array to confirm each satellite's position in orbit to enhance signal accuracy.

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The GPS III and GPS IIIF will also mount Search and Rescue payloads that will allow for better disaster response, according to Lockheed Martin.

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It has a new L1C civil signal that will make it compatible with other international GPS systems like the European Galileo system currently under development, according to Lockheed Martin. The constellation when fully completed is supposed to be available to more than 4 billion users worldwide.

GPS is crucial to military operations including navigation and weapons guidance on bombs, missiles and artillery. It has many civilian applications as well from guiding cars to geolocation in industrial and agricultural sectors.

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