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article imageU.S. Air Force set to launch a new generation of GPS satellites

By Karen Graham     Dec 17, 2018 in Technology
After months of delays, the U.S. Air Force is about to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, designed to be more accurate, secure and versatile.
The Lockheed Martin-built satellite is scheduled to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday, December 18. Tuesday morning offers an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for SpaceX's planned 9:11 a.m. launch which will be viewed by Vice-President Mike Pence.
On December 11, the GPS III Space Vehicle 01 (GPS III SV01) underwent pre-launch processing, fueling, and encapsulation at Astrotech Space Operations, in Titusville, Florida. During encapsulation, GPS III SV01 was sealed in its launch fairing,
Lockheed Martin
GPS III SV01 is the first of an entirely new design of GPS satellite which will help the Air Force modernize today's GPS constellation with new technology and advanced capabilities. It is but one of 32 planned GPS III satellites that will replace older ones now in orbit. Lockheed Martin is building the new satellites outside Denver.
Next Generation GPS III system
Global Positioning Satellites or GPS are best known for their civilian applications, and this covers a vast array of uses, from navigation to time-stamping banking transactions. So it is perfectly logical that if your phone is looking for a satellite signal to lock onto, the more that are available, the better.
GPS III has three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. The new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite broadcasting a compatible signal with other international global navigation satellite systems, like the European Union's Galileo system.
"The world is dependent on GPS. More than four billion military, commercial and civilian users connect with signals generated by GPS satellites every day," said Johnathon Caldwell, Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Navigation Systems in a statement. "The launch of GPS III SV01 will be the first step in modernizing the Air Force's GPS constellation with the most powerful and resilient GPS satellites ever designed and built."
Portrait d Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512)  The painting is in a collection at the Stewart Museum in Ca...
Portrait d'Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), The painting is in a collection at the Stewart Museum in Canada.
It may be hard to imagine, but current civilian GPS receivers are accurate to within 10 to 33 feet (3 to 10 meters), depending on conditions, said Glen Gibbons, the founder and former editor of Inside GNSS, a website and magazine that tracks global navigation satellite systems.
But with the new system, civilian receivers could be accurate to within 3 to 10 feet (1 to 3 meters) under good conditions, and military receivers could be a little closer, he said.
And, for the first time, the Air Force is assigning names to its satellites. The first one is Vespucci, after Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian navigator whose name was adopted by early mapmakers for the continents of the Western Hemisphere.
More about GPS 111, Air force, Next generation, EU's Galileo system, Navigation
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