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The prototype arrived at Lockheed Martin's testing facility on Monday

A Lockheed Martin-built prototype for the upcoming Global Positioning System (GPS) upgrade was recently completed and shipped to a facility in Colorado to begin testing.

The U.S. Air Force Space Command, which supervises the U.S.' GPS satellites from the Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, is looking to launch a $5.5 billion update to the GPS. The upgrade is intended to make both military and civilian receivers more powerful and accurate, and to also allow civilian receivers to use signals from not only the U.S. satellite navigation systems, but European and Russian systems too. 

The new GPS satellites are called Block lll, and the Pentagon plans to buy about 32 of them to launch into space at a cost of $5.5 billion. The U.S. government looked to Lockheed Martin to build and test the prototype in a $1.5 billion Air Force contract. The company will also build the first two satellites for space launch and potentially 10 more.

The prototype made its way to Lockheed Martin's $80 million test facility in Colorado on Monday, where final assembly work and testing will take place.

Once completed, the Block lll satellites are expected to allow civilian and military users to identify their position within 3 feet as opposed to 10 feet with current GPS technology. The Block lll satellites will also make it more difficult for enemies to interfere with signals.

Such GPS systems are advantageous for car use or smartphone use to weapons use.

The prototype will never be launched into space, but the first Block lll model after the prototype will be sent to space in 2014 after undergoing testing next year.

Sources: Digital Trends, Associated Press

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Arent Military and Civilian different?
By Mitch101 on 12/14/2011 12:12:02 PM , Rating: 4
Once completed, the Block lll satellites are expected to allow civilian and military users to identify their position within 3 feet as opposed to 10 feet

Im not 100% on how it works but Im under the impression the Military has much more accurate GPS maybe they sync up with more points? And the Civilian runs off the same GPS but is less accurate because it cant access the military points. The military also has a way of dumbing down/disabling the Civilian GPS in times of war to prevent it from being used against themselves. Someone more into this would be able to explain better as long as I don't RECALCULATING wha? wait a minute? RECALCULATING was I supposed to turn here? RECALCULATING PLEASE MAKE A U-TURN. DAMMIT!!

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By FITCamaro on 12/14/2011 1:44:25 PM , Rating: 2
Yes currently civilian GPS systems are less accurate than military systems.

By m51 on 12/14/2011 4:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
This is not true. Since Selective Availability was turned off in 2000 the accuracy of civilian and military GPS is essentially the same.

The error sources come largely from ephemeris errors, time base errors, multipath errors, and atmospheric distortions in the ionosphere which is one of the largest error sources. The block 3 satellites will be using multiple frequency bands which allow you to measure the skew caused by the ionosphere and compensate out most of it.

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By lennylim on 12/14/2011 2:43:34 PM , Rating: 2
Military units differ in some ways. I'm sure this is not comprehensive, because it is publicly known knowledge.

- Codes and algorithm to correct for selective availability if it is ever turned off

- Access to certain signals (L2, L3 band) and decryption keys for P(Y) code and M code.

- No built-in limitation on altitude and speed (this is to prevent civilian chipsets being used in, say, missiles)

If you want highly accurate civilian units, look at some of the surveyor grade units. For more affordable hiking units, look at the Garmin eTrex 10, 20 or 30 units, which can receive and process signals from GPS and GLONASS at the same time.

By Jedi2155 on 12/14/2011 7:02:07 PM , Rating: 2
If you want extreme accuracy, you can get one of these lab grade GPS loggers which are used to determine automotive braking distances and acceleration rates.

Accurate to 1 meter CEP. I've had the chance to use these and I've shock at how good it is. Only problem is that they're around $10,000 each.

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By jRaskell on 12/14/2011 2:57:52 PM , Rating: 2
That's more a cost factor than any intentional reduction in resolution these days.

When the GPS system was first made available for civilian use, the military was intentionally reducing resolution to civilian devices for a variety of reasons. They stopped doing that back in 2000. Now, all parties have access to the same GPS signals for location calculations. However, many civilian devices still don't really have the processing power to turn those signals into an accurate location.

So while the 10 foot positioning resolution is available to anyone and everyone, it still takes a fairly high-end gps to be able to provide that sort of resolution. A decent smart phone should have enough processing power to provide it, but they tend to suffer from less than idea gps receivers, whereas a $100 Garmin may have a much better receiver, but not nearly as much processing power.

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By NellyFromMA on 12/14/2011 3:14:29 PM , Rating: 2
Not to say you're lying, but can you cite a reference for this? I find it extremely hard to believe that the GPS system we have wideley distributed is the same precision-level as current-gen mil-spec.

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By lennylim on 12/14/2011 3:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
I don't have access to military grade GPS receivers, and a friend who worked on them in the past can't talk about it. There are many technical differences (see above), but I don't believe increased accuracy is one of them. After all, you don't really need that much precision to guide a cruise missile to a target - the last stage depends a lot on visual guidance or laser illumination, since the coordinates you start out with may not be entirely accurate *cough* Chinese embassy *cough*.

Civilian units also calculates position about once per second at most, partly due to processing power, and partly due to saving battery power. I assume if you have more processing power and a beefy battery, you can get a more accurate reading of where you are at that moment (instead of where you were a fraction of a second ago). I don't know if military units do that, but I assume at least some of them do.

Check out some civilian surveyor GPS systems if you're interested in seeing how accurate they can be.

Not terribly useful for daily navigation or wartime use.

By m51 on 12/14/2011 4:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
I know you can get commercial grade gps receivers that update 20 times a second at least.

RE: Arent Military and Civilian different?
By lightfoot on 12/14/2011 4:47:18 PM , Rating: 2
...since the coordinates you start out with may not be entirely accurate *cough* Chinese embassy *cough*.

I don't know... It seems like our coordinates for the Chinese embassy were pretty spot on.

Target identification might be a little off, but that's not a GPS issue.

Without a doubt, we hit what we were aiming at.

By Solandri on 12/15/2011 2:57:46 AM , Rating: 2
If the stories about the Chinese buying the remains of the F-117 which got shot down and storing it in the embassy prior to shipping to China are true, then the target identification would appear to have been spot on as well.

By m51 on 12/14/2011 4:14:09 PM , Rating: 2
The information is widely available. Start with

By lightfoot on 12/14/2011 12:38:02 PM , Rating: 2
The Block lll satellites will also make it more difficult for enemies to interfere with signals.

And by enemies you mean LightSquared accidently knocking 75% of GPS recievers offline by properly using licenced spectrum for their own service.

The existing GPS system is crap, blocking and interfering with the it's signals isn't even difficult.

RE: Enemies??
By mmatis on 12/14/2011 1:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
And you are obviously correct, because every other country has better systems deployed, even though they put theirs up before the US launched the first GPS.

I sure wish the friggin' <sarcasm> tags would work properly on this web site...

RE: Enemies??
By gamerk2 on 12/15/2011 2:50:05 PM , Rating: 2

According to some, Iran basically got a free stealth drone by spoofing the GPS signal. GPS is totally unsuited for military use beyond being a targeting system.

Too much info?
By bug77 on 12/14/2011 11:56:00 AM , Rating: 2
I can understand citing the cost of the research and the cost of the program.
But how does this fit with the rest?

The prototype made its way to Lockheed Martin's $80 million test facility...

Is it useful information or is it there just to show the author can dig up all sorts of obscure data?

RE: Too much info?
By Fritzr on 12/14/2011 8:37:26 PM , Rating: 2
It is there for the folks who want to know the launch date ... the launch date for this satellite is the 10th of Never.

It's all about time and satellite position.
By HVAC on 12/15/2011 10:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
Way oversimplified explanation: GPS works because the satellites detect where each other are and are also told where they are to a high degree of accuracy from known control points on the ground. A GPS satellite transmits basically two things: current position and current time.
A GPS receiver compares incoming signals and compares their relative position and relative arrival time. Knowing the basic speed of transmission through the air/space, the receiver can deduce distance from the satellite. Then it calculates position by intersecting the distance radii from all the satellite signals it is tracking.
Accuracy is increased by processing signals from more satellites and/or learning other things or paying attention to other information that the satellite may transmit, such as movement vectors of the satellite and air/space transmission issues detected during delays or multipath issues with ground point communications.
Originally civilian GPS was less accurate because the military required that some of the high resolution timing information transmitted by each satellite be encrypted. Once this encryption was removed, theoretically the civilian units could be as accurate.

By leexgx on 12/18/2011 12:12:02 AM , Rating: 2
they put current position accurately errors in the signal so the accurately cant be high unless they remove them (but not good idea as could be used for missiles)

currant GPS devices seem to handle it very well just 3 points get 50-100 meters accurately from an norm fast lock, with more GPS Sat points get that down to 15 or 10 meters (a lot faster then the older GPS devices from 10 years ago) and with AGPS (mobile phones if enabled) most lock within 5 seconds out doors

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