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Lockheed's third GPS III satellite arrives at Cape Canaveral

The third of Lockheed Martin's GPS III satellites arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for a launch scheduled in  April, the company announced. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin
The third of Lockheed Martin's GPS III satellites arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for a launch scheduled in  April, the company announced. Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin's third GPS III satellite arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla., for a planned launch in April, the company announced on Monday.

Nicknamed "Columbus," the satellite, the first delivered to the new U.S. Space Force, was flown from Buckley AFB, Colo., to Florida in an Air Force C-17 aircraft, Lockheed said in a press release.

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Up to 10 next-generation GPS III craft, and up to 22 GPS III follow-on systems, are planned to "modernize today's GPS constellation with new technologies and capabilities," Lockheed said. The first, named "Magellan," was launched in December 2018, and the second, "Vespucci," in August 2019.

The fourth will launch in the summer of 2020.

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The new system offers three times the accuracy of previous GPS systems relied on by civilian, commercial and military users. It has improved anti-jamming capabilities and can broadcast the new L1C civil signal shared by other international positioning systems.

While civilians and businesses around the world depend on GPS for everyday communications and navigation, the military requires constant location information transmitted through a system secure enough to be impenetrable to enemies. The new system is built for modern electronic warfare, officials say, which will protect it for all users.

"We are excited to help the Space Force refresh the constellation to ensure U.S. and allied forces always have the best technology and that the U.S. Global Positioning System remains the gold standard for PNT [positioning, navigation and timing]," said Tonya Ladwig of Lockheed.

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The company is preparing critical design reviews for upgrades to the satellites. The 11th satellite expected to go into orbit will include a "GPS IIIF" package to include a fully digital navigation payload, a regional military protection capability, an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array, and a search and rescue payload.

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