Emerged from Its Cocoon, the Third GPS III Now Flies Skyward - Inside GNSS - Global Navigation Satellite Systems Engineering, Policy, and Design

Emerged from Its Cocoon, the Third GPS III Now Flies Skyward

After a successful launch on the afternoon of June 30, the third Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite now heads to orbit under its own propulsion. The satellite has separated from its rocket and is using onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.

GPS III Space Vehicle 03 (GPS III SV03) is responding to commands from U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers in the Launch & Checkout Center at the company’s Denver facility. There, they declared rocket booster separation and satellite control about 90 minutes after the satellite’s 4:10 p.m. EST launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

“In the coming days, GPS III SV03’s onboard liquid apogee engines will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit,” said Tonya Ladwig, Lockheed Martin’s Acting Vice President for Navigation Systems. “Once it arrives, we’ll send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare the satellite for handover to Space Operations Command.”

After on-orbit testing, GPS III SV03 is expected to join the GPS constellation – including GPS III SV01 and SV02, which were declared operational in January and April – in providing positioning, navigation and timing signals for more than four billion military, civil and commercial users. GPS III SV03 increases number of secure, jam- and spoof-resistant Military Code (M-Code) enabled satellites to 22 out of the constellation of 31.

Lockheed Martin built GPS to help the Space Force modernize the GPS constellation new technology and capabilities. The new GPS IIIs offer a new L1C civil signal, compatible with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe’s Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.

“As a nation, we use GPS signals every day — they time-stamp all our financial transactions, they make aviation safe, they make precision farming possible, and so much more. GPS has become a critical part of our national infrastructure. In fact, the U.S. economic benefit of GPS is estimated to be over $300 billion per year and $1.4 trillion since its inception,” added Ladwig. “Continued investment in modernizing GPS – updating technology, improving its capabilities – is well worth it.”