New "Block lll" GPS Satellite Prototype Begins Testing
December 14, 2011 10:48 AM
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
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
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.
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