First advanced GPS satellite goes live

GPS Joint Program Office FAQ

The Air Force and Lockheed Martin implemented earlier this week the first in a series of modernized Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites designed to improve encryption and defeat jamming for military users. They also put into operation a new civilian signal, which will improve the accuracy of civilian survey-grade receivers.

Lockheed Martin launched the next-generation GPS IIR-14M satellite in September, and the Air Force declared it operational this week after extensive in-orbit tests of the new military and civilian signals. Col. Allan Ballenger, system program director at the Navstar GPS Joint Program Office, said the new IIR satellite marks the start of “a new era of GPS services for our military and civilian users around the globe.”

The company has a contract to launch seven additional GPS IIR-M satellites, and the Air Force plans to follow this with a new family of satellites that will incorporate a third civilian signal that is scheduled to launch in 2007.

Military and civilian users already have receivers that will allow them to take advantage of the advanced capabilities the new GPS IIR satellites offer.

Rockwell Collins won an eight-year contract with a value ranging from $238 million to $338 million in 2003 to manufacture Defense Advanced GPS Receivers (DAGR). Nancy Welsh, a Rockwell Collins spokeswoman, said these receivers are capable of picking up military signals from the new GPS satellites, which are broadcast on the GPS L1 frequency of 1575.42 MHz and the L2 frequency of 1227.60 MHz.

Welsh said that by the end of this month, Rockwell Collins will have manufactured 50,000 DAGRs, which were designed to be the standard handheld receiver used by U.S. military forces. DAGRs weigh a little less than 1 pound and measure 3.5 inches by 6.5 inches.

The IIR-14M satellite also broadcasts a new civilian signal on the GPS L2 frequency and LeaAnn McNabb, a spokesman for Trimble Navigation said her company first introduced a receiver capable of picking up that signal in 2003.

McNabb added that ITT Industries, which developed the GPS IIR-M satellite navigation payload, used a Trimble R7 survey receiver to test the new civilian signal before launch.

Trimble’s R7 and R8 survey receivers can get the new L2 civilian signal and are priced from $18,000 to $21,000, depending on accessories purchased. Trimble says that even with only one IIR-M satellite in orbit, surveyors will be able to acquire powerful L2 signals, which provide error correction needed for real-time kinematics surveying.


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