Air Force gets last upgraded GPS-IIR satellite

Contracting team on track for first GPS IIIA satellite in 2014

The last in a series of eight global positioning systems IIR satellites that Lockheed Martin Corp. delivered to the Air Force is now operational.

Lockheed Martin’s operations team assisted the Air Force with the Aug. 17 launch and early on-orbit maneuvers for the GPS IIR-21(M) satellite, company officials said Sept. 3.

The company and navigation payload contractor ITT Corp. designed and built 21 IIR spacecraft and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft designated Block IIR-M.

The Block IIR-M satellites provide defense and civilian navigation users with advanced position, timing and navigation capabilities, the officials said. The GPS capabilities ensure that defense users can achieve situational awareness and precision weapon guidance, and also give civilian users precision location and timing information for air traffic control and other needs.

The satellites have a modernized antenna panel that boosts signal power to receivers on the ground, two new military signals for improved accuracy, and enhanced encryption and anti-jamming capabilities for the military. They also include a second civil signal that gives users an open access signal on a different frequency.

The contracting team is on track to launch the first next-generation GPS IIIA satellite in 2014, the officials said. The company also is building communications satellites for the Defense Department.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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