DENVER., 25 Sept. 2012. A team of engineers at Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) delivered the propulsion core module for the first U.S. Air Force Global Positioning System III spacecraft to the company’s GPS Processing Facility (GPF) in Denver. It marks the program’s first major hardware delivery for GPS III Space Vehicle 1, and kicks off the next-generation satellite’s initial Assembly, Integration, and Test activities in the GPF.
The propulsion core includes the integrated propulsion system and serves as the structural backbone of the satellite. Developed and tested at Lockheed Martin's Mississippi Space & Technology Center, the propulsion subsystem helps not only to maneuver the GPS III satellite during transfer orbit to its final location, but also to conduct on-orbit repositioning maneuvers throughout its mission life.
"The delivery of the propulsion core demonstrates that this program is on firm footing and poised to deliver on its commitments," says Lt. Col. Todd Caldwell, the U.S. Air Force GPS III program manager. "In this challenging budget environment, we are focused on efficient program execution to deliver critical new capabilities to GPS users worldwide.”
A Lockheed Martin initiative to improve the manufacturability of GPS III simplified plumbing routing and reduced welds by 25 percent compared to similar spacecraft, reducing cycle time and cost for all GPS III production satellites.
The team is first fielding a full-sized satellite prototype, known as the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) to identify and solve development issues prior to integration and test of the first GPS III satellite.
“Building on the lessons learned from our GNST pathfinder, we expect to execute a very smooth and efficient assembly, integration, and test phase for the first GPS III satellite,” explains Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martin's Navigation Systems mission area. “We are on track to deliver the first satellite for launch availability in 2014, and as we complete production pathfinding on the GNST and move into full scale satellite production, we expect to streamline our processes further, reduce risk, lower per unit costs, and ensure mission success.”
The GPS III program will replace aging GPS satellites and help meet the evolving demands of military, commercial, and civilian users with better accuracy, improved anti-jamming power, enhanced design life, and a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.
The GPS III team, led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, includes: Lockheed Martin as prime contractor and partners ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK, and other subcontractors. Air Force Space Command's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., manages and operates the GPS constellation for civil and military users.