GPS III is the newest generation of GPS satellites, with the first vehicle scheduled for launch in 2016. Perhaps the most noticeable improvement this satellite will bring is a new signal called L1C, which will be compatible with the European Space Agency’s Galileo system. Since Galileo is expected to have about the same number of satellites as GPS, this means that civil users of GPS will eventually have the benefit of double the number of satellites that current users enjoy. Aerospace has participated in GPS III from the earliest requirements development efforts to the recent design review campaigns, leading to a successful critical design review and initial fabrication.
While GPS III is in development, the current generation of GPS satellites, GPS IIF, are being produced and launched. The IIF contract provides for 12 satellites, and thus far, two have been successfully launched. Aerospace provides close oversight, troubleshooting, and analysis for GPS III. When problems arise, Aerospace works closely with contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, providing the critical technical expertise and leadership needed to find the source of the issue and develop a solution that meets the customer’s cost, schedule, and performance objectives.
Aerospace is also helping to manage the more than 30 GPS satellites currently on orbit, including satellites from both the IIR and IIA generations. To better support this effort, an Aerospace team is embedded with the U.S. Air Force GPS operations team at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. Aerospace innovations range from accuracy improvement of the system as a whole to new techniques to extend the operational lives of individual satellites.