Aerospace & Defense

Information Technology


Emerging Capabilities

Global Positioning System (GPS)


About GPS
Our world depends on the Global Positioning System (GPS). With GPS – our soldiers are safer, first responders are faster, banking and investing is instantaneous, industry is more efficient and everyday living is simply easier.

GPS technology is found in everything from cell phones and wristwatches, to shipping containers and ATM's.  The system boosts productivity in almost every aspect of society and across a wide swath of the economy, to include farming, construction mining, surveying, supply chain management and more. Major communications networks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids depend on GPS and the technology is embedded in virtually every component of U.S. military operations.

Learn more about how GPS works here.

Most of the GPS satellites now on orbit have surpassed their operational design life and users are demanding more advanced capabilities. To sustain and modernize the constellation, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin are developing the next generation satellite system, known as GPS III.

GPS III will improve position, navigation and timing services and provide advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability.  GPS III will:

  • Deliver signals three times more accurate than current GPS spacecraft.
  • Provide military users up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities.
  • Due to its advanced design, GPS III’s operational life is also expected to go out 15 years and beyond, more than 25 percent longer than the newest Block IIF satellites.
  • Civil users will find greatly enhanced global connectivity in the future, when GPS III becomes the first GPS satellite to host a civil L1C signal, which will be shared by other emerging international Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).

GPS III On Contract:
In 2008, Lockheed Martin was awarded the contract for the design, development and production of the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) and the first two GPS III space vehicles (SV 01-02), with priced options for up to 10 additional satellites. Lockheed Martin was contracted for GPS III SV 03-04 in 2012, SV 05-06 in 2013 and SV 07-08 in 2014.

The GPS III Team
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with teammates Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK and other subcontractors. Air Force Space Command's 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.

Lockheed Martin’s GPS IIR and IIR-M Heritage
For GPS III, Lockheed Martin will build on its proven record of providing progressively advanced spacecraft for the current GPS constellation.

Originally launched between 1997 and 2009 to add capabilities to the GPS constellation and to replace other aging satellites, today 12 GPS IIR and eight IIR-M satellites – designed and built by Lockheed Martin -- help deliver precise positioning, navigation and timing services to more than one billion global military, civilian and commercial users every day.  These satellites represent about two-thirds of the current GPS constellation.

On Sept. 2, 2014, the GPS IIR and IIR-M fleet reached a major milestone of 200 collective years of operational life and maintaining an unprecedented availability record of 99.96 percent. That represents only 10 minutes of down time per satellite during all their years of operation. Making this milestone even more significant is the fact that the GPS IIR and IIR-M satellites were designed to last 7.5 years, or collectively about 150 years. All 12 IIR satellites are currently operating beyond their design life with the oldest operating for more than 16.5 years. Three of eight GPS IIR-M satellites have surpassed their expected life span and all satellites will have done so in 2017.

Lockheed Martin heritage also dates back to the production of the Oscar and Nova satellites, the original navigation programs that paved the way to the current GPS system. Learn more about the history of navigation here.

GPS Navigation

GPS Navigation


GPS How Video

United Launch Alliance GPS IIR-21M Launch Video

GPS IIR-21M Launch

GPS III Rotation

Credit: Jefferson County Economic Development Council

Lockheed Martin GPS III in orbit

Lockheed Martin Space Systems won an Innovative Technology award at the Jefferson County Economic Development Corporation's 19th annual Industry Appreciation Awards Breakfast on March 22, 2012. The award was given to acknowledge Lockheed Martin's GPS III program Credit: Jefferson County Economic Development Council

U.S. Air Force Awarded $238 Million Contract By Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) awarded the U.S. Air Force a $238 million contract for production of the third and fourth satellites in the next-generation Global Positioning constellations, also known as the GPS III. - Credit: Financial News Network

The Truth About GPS: How it works

Col. David Buckman, Air Force Space Command, talks about GPS, how it works, and modernization. Credit: - Air Force Space Command

From the APL Vault: Transit and the Birth of GPS

When Sputnik was launched in 1957, two Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab engineers listened to the radio beacon the satellite emitted as it circled the Earth -- and had an idea. That idea became Transit, the world's first global positioning system, developed at APL. Credit: - Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

GPS Navigation

GPS Navigation


An artist’s rendering of the GPS II-R satellite


A Lockheed Martin engineer works on a GPS IIR-M satellite


A Lockheed Martin engineer checks out a GPS IIR spacecraft

GPS III Core Structure

The core structure of the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) stands vertical in Lockheed Martin’s GPS III Processing Facility.

GPS III Anechoic Chamber

Jim Keyser, manager of Lockheed Martin’s GPS Processing Facility, stands in the Anechoic test chamber where the company will perform tests on the GPS III spacecraft to ensure all its signals and interfaces work properly.


An artist’s rendering of the GPS III satellite


An artist’s rendering of the GPS II-R satellite