Lockheed Martin GPS IIIF (SV11+) satellite

WASHINGTON — L3Harris Technologies announced Feb. 23 it has received a $137 million contract from Lockheed Martin for four digital payloads for GPS navigation satellites. 

The navigation payload mission data units are for the next-generation GPS satellites known as GPS 3 Follow-on or GPS 3F, made by Lockheed Martin.

The digital payloads a year ago passed a critical design review that required demonstrating the new payload design was mature enough to go into production. The central component of the navigation payload is the mission data unit, which provides more powerful signals and ensures accurate atomic clock operations.

Lockheed Martin selected L3Harris in 2018 to design and build the first two fully digital mission data units and in 2019 awarded the company a $243 million contract for the two payloads. The new award is for four additional units. 

Ed Zoiss, president of space and airborne systems at L3Harris, said the new payload will support the transition of the GPS constellation to a future ground control system, known as GPS OCX, made by Raytheon.

The GPS 3 satellites that are currently being launched have an L3Harris mission data unit that is 70 percent digital. The first four GPS 3 satellites have been launched and are now operational. Six more will be launched in the coming years. 

The U.S. Space Force plans to start launching GPS 3F satellites in 2026. These will have a 100 percent digital payload. In September 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth $7.2 billion to build up to 22 GPS 3F satellites.

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...