United States Space Force approves Operational Acceptance of fourth GPS III satellite

This marks the latest significant milestone for the GPS III program, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the USSF. SV04 is the fourth GPS III satellite delivered into operational constellation within the last 12 months, and the second in the last three months, reported GPS World.

United States Space Force approves Operational Acceptance of fourth GPS III satellite
United States Space Force approves Operational Acceptance of fourth GPS III satellite

United States Space Force approves Operational Acceptance of fourth GPS III satellite

The fourth GPS III satellite, space vehicle (SV) 04, has received Operational Acceptance approval from the United States Space Force on Dec. 1. This marks the latest significant milestone for the GPS III program, Space and Missile Systems Center, and the USSF. SV04 is the fourth GPS III satellite delivered into operational constellation within the last 12 months, and the second in the last three months, reported GPS World.

This is also the first GPS III vehicle delivered to the warfighter via an expedited satellite control authority transfer process, which reduces the operational acceptance timeline by 10 days. Capt. Collin Dart, the 2 SOPS DOA flight commander, said, “With the onset of SV04, the GPS constellation continues moving forward in next-generation modernization. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron is one step closer to providing military code (M-code) capability for the entire 24 satellite baseline.”

He added, “The highly encrypted M-code to protect GPS signals from jamming and spoofing is currently enabled on 22 GPS satellites of various generations; 24 are needed to bring the M-code to the next level of operational capability. SV04 brings the constellation to 23 M-code capable vehicles. SV05 will launch no earlier than July 2021. This will add the 24th M-code capable vehicle.” 

Faster handover from contractor

SV04 also sets a completely new standard for the timeline of handover, from contractor Lockheed Martin’s launch team to operational acceptance. This helps deliver the satellite set healthy to the global user community nearly 30 days after launch, said Dart. “Moving forward with future GPS III launches, the timeline between launch and the satellite being set healthy will be at a minimum,” he said.

SV04 was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 vehicle on November 5. The Air Force has been flying 31 operational satellites for several years to maintain the United States’ goal of having 24 operational GPS satellites available, 95% of the time. GPS III SV04 joins this operational constellation of 31 GPS satellites orbiting in medium-Earth orbit. It also offers improved accuracy, advanced anti-jam capabilities, and increased resiliency for the GPS III constellation.

Col. Ryan Colburn, director of the SMC Portfolio Architect Office’s Spectrum Warfare Division, said, “The operational acceptance of GPS III SV04 is another significant milestone for GPS Modernization, delivering critical new capabilities to our Military and Civil Users. We now have a total of 23 M-code spacecraft for our Warfighters. For our billions of civil users, it brings the count up to 23 L2C spacecraft and 16 L5 spacecraft.”

He added, “For professional users with existing dual-frequency operations, L2C enables faster signal acquisition, enhanced reliability, and greater operating range. L5 is broadcast in a radio band reserved exclusively for aviation safety services. It features higher power, greater bandwidth, and an advanced signal design. Future aircraft will use L5 in combination with L1 C/A to improve accuracy (via ionospheric correction) and robustness (via signal redundancy). The operational acceptance of this spacecraft is another display of the fantastic teamwork across SMC’s Corps, Space Delta 8, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, our industry partners and many others who work together to make these missions possible.”