Raytheon tests help get GPS III closer to reality

The Air Force is getting closer to putting the next generation of Global Positioning System satellites into orbit, with the recent announcement by Raytheon that the company conducted successful tests over the summer in preparation for the launch of the satellites.

GPS III’s deployment has been slowed by budget cuts and other setbacks, forcing the continued reliance on the GPS IIF constellation.

Raytheon’s “cyber-hardened” Launch and Checkout System demonstrated maturity and readiness in the three preliminary launch readiness events over the summer, the company said. The LCS will support the launch of the GPS III satellites as part of Raytheon’s GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System and handle the full range of operations and procedures for the launch and early checkout of the GPS III satellites, Raytheon said.

GPS III satellites, being made by Lockheed Martin, are expected to be more jam-resistant than current satellites, and have 25 percent longer lifespans and three times the accuracy.

The GPS Next-Generation Operational Control System will help guard against cyber threats launched at the new constellation, an increasing concern.   

As for the actual test events that occurred last summer, the first demonstrated capabilities necessary to deploy GPS III satellites during launch and checkout, the second demonstrated the for the first time the ability to switch contacts in multiple simulated Air Force Satellite Control Network ground sites during the launch and early orbit checkout period, and the third event demonstrated acquisition of the space vehicle after launch, transfer orbit configurations, simultaneous contacts and handoffs from simulated Air Force Space Command Network sites. 

The first GPS III satellite launch is expected in 2017.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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