U.S. Air Force GPS III satellite completes factory mission readiness test

DENVER. The U.S. Air Force has finalized a factory mission readiness test (FMRT) on the first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite along with the launch-and-checkout system (LCS) of an accompanying ground control platform built by Raytheon.

Engineers at Lockheed Martin reported that the GPS III SV01 satellite received and processed commands from the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) LCS component during the FMRT demonstration, which was performed in early November.

During this end-to-end system demonstration, say Lockheed Martin officials, command signals were sent from the LCS software installed at Lockheed Martin's Launch and Check Out Capability node in Denver to Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado; from there, the commands were uplinked back to the GPS III SV01 satellite, which is currently waiting for a callup for launch at Lockheed Martin. The FMRT validated the command and control interaction between GPS III and the Operational Control System's LCS through a simulated full launch and early orbit mission event sequence.

As designed, GPS III is intended to have three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved antijamming capabilities; additionally, the spacecraft's life will extend to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest GPS satellites on orbit today. GPS III will also incorporate a new L1C civil signal, which will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems, like Galileo.

OCX, says Lockheed Martin, will control all legacy and new signals, provide protection against evolving cyberthreats, and reduce operation and sustainment costs through more efficient use of software, automation and performance-based logistics.

The successful FMRT, say Lockheed Martin officials, was the final validation that GPS III SV01 is ready to be shipped to the launch pad. "During FMRT, GPS III SV01 received and successfully processed OCX commands that are routinely sent during launch, transfer orbit maneuvers, deployments, and payload initialization," said Mark Stewart, Lockheed Martin's vice president for Navigation Systems. "We thoroughly tested the first GPS III satellite just like we are going to fly it in 2018."