GPS Block III
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: GPS Block IIIA, GPS Block IIIB, GPS Block IIIC and GPS III
Origin: United States of America
ATK Alliant Techsystems, Exelis, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Honeywell, Infinity Systems Engineering, ITT Industries and Lockheed Martin* (*) lead contractor
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Description: The GPS satellites developed under the NAVSTAR program allows any properly equipped user to determine precise time, velocity and worldwide latitude, longitude and altitude to within a few meters. Originally was designed to be an accurate guidance and navigation tool for the military services but it has been adopted by civil and commercial customers for transportation, surveying and rescue operations. The first GPS Block I spacecraft was put into orbit on February 22, 1978. In the past, the GPS constellation spacecrafts fluctuated from 2-18 to 21 but currently the GPS constellation owned by the United States Air Force consists of 27 satellites (24+3 spares). As of 2004, the US Air Force GPS constellation consists of six planes, each one containing at least four satellites operating 24/7. Redundant satellites are being launched as spares to counterbalance attrition. The GPS is transitioning into the 2020s and the 2030s with the GPS Block III and Block IIIF satellites.
The GPS Block III is an initiative of the US Air Force intended to meet the requirements for satellite-based navigation and timing capabilities over the next 30 years. Two industry teams led by Lockheed-Martin and Boeing are currently competing for the GPS Block III program. Finally, the US Air Force selected Lockheed Martin-led team to build eight (up to 12) GPS IIIA satellites worth $1.4 billion with the first spacecraft to be placed into orbit in 2014. The US Air Force GPS Block III plans call for the procurement of eight GPS IIIB and 16 GPS IIIC satellites in later increments. The final GPS III constellation includes 10 satellites supplied by Lockheed Martin to be placed into orbit beginning in late 2018.
The GPS IIIA satellites will deliver significant improvements over current GPS space vehicles, including a new international civil signal (L1C) and increased M-Code anti-jam power with full earth coverage for military users. GPS IIIB will enable a cross-linked command and control architecture, allowing these GPS III vehicles to be updated from a single ground station instead of waiting for each satellite to orbit in view of a ground antenna. GPS IIIC will include a high-powered spot beam to deliver greater M-Code power for increased resistance to hostile jamming. The final GPS III satellite provides three times better accuracy and up to eight-times improved anti-jamming capabilities. The navigation payload is 70 percent digital. The L1C civil signal makes GPS Block III satellite interoperable with other navigation satellites such as Galileo.
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