A new, fully digital payload for next-generation GPS satellites will provide a more powerful, reliable and flexible GPS signal than previous satellites.
The new system has just passed its critical design review by its developer and manufacturer, L3Harris. The system will “provide more powerful signals and ensure flawless atomic clock operations.”
According to c4isrnet.com, the new GPS IIIF satellites will follow the first 10 GPS III satellites—the first of which is already on orbit and operational. The US Air Force plans to eventually build 22 GPS IIIF satellites.
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for GPS IIIF. The US Air Force awarded the company more than $1.3 billion to build the first two GPS IIIF satellites in 2018. Critical design review for the platform is expected in March 2020, according to Space Force budget documents. Among their advanced features, GPS IIIF satellites will boast regional military protection capabilities, which allow them to deliver regionally-limited high-power M-Code signals. It will also include new laser retro-reflector arrays that can provide on-orbit position determination.
The GPS IIIF satellites are being designed to potentially incorporate technology from Navigation Technology Satellite 3, an Air Force Research Laboratory space vehicle that will be used to test a variety of position, navigation and timing technologies.