WASHINGTON — L3Harris will start building a navigation satellite for the U.S. Air Force scheduled to be launched to a geosynchronous orbit in 2022.

The Air Force announced July 30 that the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) on June 25 passed a critical design review, allowing the contractor L3Harris to move forward with production of the spacecraft. The company passed a preliminary design review in February.

L3Harris will integrate the NTS-3 payload with an ESPAStar bus for a planned 2022 launch. The goal is to show that a spacecraft in higher geosynchronous orbit can supplement the Global Positioning System that operates from medium Earth orbit.

“The experiment will demonstrate capabilities that can be accomplished through a stand-alone satellite constellation or as a hosted payload,” Ed Zoiss, president of L3Harris Space and Airborne Systems, said in a statement.

The Space Enterprise Consortium in 2018 selected L3Harris for the $84 million NTS-3 contract. The consortium is an organization within the Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center created to bring commercial technologies into military programs.

Technologies developed in the NTS-3 program such as electronically steerable phased-array antennas and flexible waveform generators could be be used in the next generation of GPS satellites, the Air Force said.

Once deployed, NTS-3 will be operated by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. The spacecraft will broadcast experimental PNT (positioning, navigation, timing) signals that will be used to test anti-jam technologies to improve the resilience of GPS signals.

Arlen Biersgreen, Air Force NTS-3 program manager, said the program “has the potential for game-changing advancements to the way the Air Force provides these critical capabilities to warfighters across the Department of Defense.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...