On 13 January, USAF 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS) set Satellite Vehicle Number-74 as healthy and active. This satellite is the first of the GPS III family to join the active constellation.
SVN-74, launched on 23 December 2018, will now be available for use by military and civilian GPS users around the world.
A 2SOPS Assistant Director explains that various training modules and upgrades were instrumental in making the satellite operational: ’In order to operate GPS III, we first had to install Architecture Evolution Plan 8.0. This allowed our Sqn to control the new satellite without a next-generation operational control system (GPS OCX). The Training and evaluations flight was able to expeditiously give our operators top-up training that allowed them to become comfortable with the new satellite.’
GPS III satellites have an extended lifespan of 15 years. The manufacturers claim 3-times better accuracy and up to 8-times improved anti-jamming capabilities compared with the newest GPS II satellites. They will also transmit the L1C civil signal, making them compatible with other GNSS such as GLONASS, BeiDou and Galileo.
2nd SOPS is already preparing for the second GPS Block III vehicle, already in orbit, awaiting its day to become healthy and active.
It is hoped that full GPS III functionality - although still employing some GPS II satellites - will be achieved by January 2023.