DENVER - The fourth Lockheed Martin-built Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellite is now headed to orbit under its own propulsion. Following a successful launch November 5, GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04) separated from its rocket and is now using onboard power to climb to its operational orbit, approximately 12,550 miles above the Earth.
About 89 minutes after a 6:24 p.m. EST liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, U.S. Space Force and Lockheed Martin engineers at the company's Denver Launch & Checkout Operations Center declared GPS III SV04 "separated" from its SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and "flying" under their control.
In the coming days, GPS III SV04's onboard liquid apogee engine will continue to propel the satellite towards its operational orbit. Once it arrives, the engineers will send the satellite commands to deploy its solar arrays and antennas, and prepare GPS III SV04 for handover to Space Operations Command.
GPS III SV04 is the latest next-generation GPS III satellite Lockheed Martin designed and built to help the U.S. Space Force modernize today's GPS satellite constellation with new technology and capabilities. GPS III satellites will provide significant capability improvements over previous GPS satellites, including:
- Three times better accuracy;
- Up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities; and
- A new L1C civil signal, which is compatible with international global navigation satellite systems, like Europe's Galileo, to improve civilian user connectivity.
GPS III SV04 will also be the 23rd Military Code (M-Code) signal-enabled GPS space vehicle on orbit, continuing the Space Force's plan to fully field the more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof GPS signal for military forces.
In early July, the Space Force also declared that the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program had fulfilled Milestone C, allowing the program to enter its production phase. GPS IIIF satellites will add even more capabilities, including:
- A Regional Military Protection Capability, which will increase anti-jam support in theater to ensure U.S. and allied forces cannot be denied access to GPS in hostile environments;
- an accuracy-enhancing laser retroreflector array;
- A fully digital navigation payload; and
- A new search and rescue payload.
GPS is part of the U.S.'s critical national infrastructure, driving an estimated $300 billion in annual economic benefits and responsible for $1.4 trillion since its inception. Globally, more than four billion military, civil and commercial users depend on GPS' positioning, navigation and timing signals.