The U.S. Space Force (USSF)’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron accepted control of GPS III Satellite Vehicle Number 75 (GPS III SVN-75) on March 27 at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado.
The vehicle is the second GPS III satellite to be accepted into the program, but the first to be accepted during a global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
“We’re continuing to make major strides even while working through this pandemic, and we continue to expand our capability to further the program along,” said Lt. Col Stephen Toth, 2nd SOPS commander. “This is a huge, momentous occasion for us, that we’re reaching this milestone, that our programs are being delivered, that they’re being executed and the systems are performing as expected. Ultimately, we’re all very excited that we’ve accomplished this major milestone in the program’s history, and we’re very excited for the next things to come.”
GPS III SV02 (also called USA-293), dubbed “Magellan” in honor of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who led the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth, was launched on August 22, 2019, aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Medium+ launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The new generation of GPS III vehicles, developed by Lockheed Martin, have a 15 year design life and signals that are three times more accurate than the current generation. Additionally, the new satellites have eight times improved anti-jam capability, allowing the military warfighter to operate better in contested, degraded, and operationally limited environments. The vehicles are designed to be forward and backward compatible, which allows them to adapt to the future while remaining fully adaptable to the previous generation of vehicles.
The first GPS III satellite, GPS III SV01 (USA-289, SVN-74), was launched on Dec. 23, 2018, and achieved Operational Acceptance on Jan. 2, 2020. USSF made SV01 available for use by military and civilian users for critical missions worldwide on Jan. 13.
The Space Force is scheduled to launch eight more GPS III satellites from now until 2025. A third vehicle for GPS III is scheduled for launch later this year.
In September 2018, the Air Force selected Lockheed Martin for the GPS III Follow On (GPS IIIF) program, an estimated $7.2 billion opportunity to build up to 22 GPS IIIF satellites with additional capabilities. The first GPS IIIF satellite is expected to be available for launch in 2026.
The GPS III team is led by the Production Corps, Medium Earth Orbit Division, at the U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), at Los Angeles Air Force Base. 2 SOPS at Schriever Air Force Base, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.