HANCOCK COUNTY — The Lockheed Martin team developing the U.S. Air Force’s next generation Global Positioning System III satellites has delivered the first spacecraft’s propulsion core module to the company’s Denver, Col.-area GPS Processing Facility (GPF).
According to the company, the milestone represents the program’s first major hardware delivery for GPS III Space Vehicle 1 and highlights the satellite’s initial Assembly, Integration and Test activities in the GPF.
The propulsion core contains the integrated propulsion system and serves as the structural backbone of the satellite. Developed and tested at Lockheed Martin’s Mississippi Space & Technology Center at the Stennis Space Center, the propulsion subsystem is essential for maneuvering the GPS III satellite during transfer orbit to its final location as well as conducting on-orbit repositioning maneuvers throughout its mission life.
The propulsion system benefits from a Lockheed Martin initiative to improve the manufacturability of GPS III. The activity simplified plumbing routing and reduced welds by 25 percent compared to similar spacecraft, which results in significantly reduced cycle time and cost for all GPS III production satellites, the company reports.
To reduce risk and overall program costs for the government, the team is first fielding a full-sized satellite prototype, known as the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST). The approach is used to identify and solve development issues prior to integration and test of the first GPS III satellite.
In 2008, Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for the design, development and production of the GNST and the first two GPS III satellites, with priced options for up to 10 additional satellites. In early 2012, the Air Force exercised a $238 million option for production of the next two satellites, GPS III space vehicles three and four. The Air Force plans to purchase up to 32 GPS III satellites.
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with teammates 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 both civil and military users.