The U.S. Space Force has received the 10th and final GPS 3 satellite manufactured by Lockheed Martin under a contract dating back to 2008. Out of the 10 satellites produced, six have already been launched, while the remaining four are stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado, awaiting future launch opportunities.
On February 16, the Space Systems Command announced that it had declared the 10th satellite “available for launch.” GPS 3 satellites are an upgraded version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System, providing enhanced positioning, navigation, and timing signals. They offer improved protection against jamming attacks for military users and feature an advanced L1C signal that is compatible with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites, benefiting civilian users.
Scott Thomas, the GPS 3 program manager at the Space Systems Command, highlighted the significance of completing the 10th satellite, emphasizing its role in modernizing the GPS system. He acknowledged the program’s importance in meeting U.S. national security needs for both military personnel and the billions of users worldwide who rely on GPS services.
The GPS 3 program faced challenges during its production. Lockheed Martin won the competition against Boeing in 2008, but later encountered technical issues with the primary payload, causing production delays. Despite these setbacks, the delivery of the final GPS 3 satellite marks a notable milestone in the ongoing modernization of GPS technology.
Indeed, the GPS 3 satellite program experienced delays in its launch schedule, with the first satellite launching in 2018 instead of the originally projected 2014. Subsequent launches followed in 2019, 2020, 2021, and most recently last month. The launches were conducted using SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicles for five satellites, while the sixth satellite was launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
As for the seventh GPS 3 satellite, no specific launch date has been announced yet. It is assigned to ULA’s upcoming Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is expected to replace the Atlas 5 in future launches.
Lockheed Martin, the primary contractor for the GPS 3 program, is currently working on an advanced version called GPS 3F. The company’s dominant role in the program led its only competitor, Boeing, to withdraw from the competition to build GPS 3F satellites.
In 2018, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract worth $7.2 billion for the production of up to 22 GPS 3F satellites. As of now, ten satellites have been ordered under this contract.