WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force accepted delivery of the 10th and final GPS 3 satellite made by Lockheed Martin under a 2008 contract.

Of the 10 satellites built, six have been launched and four are stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado, awaiting launch opportunities. 

In a statement Feb. 16, the Space Systems Command said it declared the 10th satellite “available for launch.”

GPS 3 is a modernized version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System satellites that broadcast positioning, navigation and timing signals. Compared to earlier generations, the GPS 3 satellites provide military users extra protection from jamming attacks and a more advanced L1C signal for civilian users that is interoperable with Europe’s Galileo navigation satellites.

“The completion of the 10th, and final, GPS 3 space vehicle is a significant milestone for GPS modernization,” said Scott Thomas, GPS 3 program manager at the Space Systems Command. 

Thomas noted the GPS program supports “U.S. national security needs for our warfighters and for more than four billion users worldwide.”

The production of GPS 3 has not been without setbacks. Lockheed Martin beat Boeing in 2008 in a high-stakes competition to build GPS 3. The program later ran into technical problems with the main payload and production fell behind schedule.

The first GPS 3 satellite, originally projected to launch in 2014, launched in 2018. The second one launched in 2019, the third and fourth in 2020, the fifth in 2021 and the sixth launched last month. Five of these launches were on SpaceX Falcon 9 vehicles, and one on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. 

No date has been announced for the launch of the seventh GPS 3, which was assigned to ULA’s new rocket Vulcan Centaur. 

Lockheed Martin is now producing a more advanced version of the GPS 3, called GPS 3F. The company’s dominance of the GPS program led its only competitor, Boeing, to bow out of the competition to built the GPS 3F. 

Lockheed Martin in 2018 was awarded a contract worth $7.2 billion for up to 22 GPS 3F satellites. Ten have been ordered so far.

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...