The U.S. Air Force on Friday, 14 September, announced the award to Lockheed Martin Corporation of a contract to provide 22 next-generation Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. The Air Force says that the sole-source award for the GPS III system, worth up to $7.2 billion, will see Lockheed Martin provide the next-generation satellites for space launch beginning in 2026.
Having displaced Boeing as the GPS III manufacturer a decade ago, Lockheed Martin has been under contract to provide ten satellites and the additional 22 units will complete the 32- satellite constellation envisioned by the Air Force. Plagued by delays, Lockheed Martin delivered the first satellite under contract last September and the system is ready for launch and deployment. The Air Force now plans to have the first ten GPS III satellite operational by 2023.
Said Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in a statement on the contract: “The world is dependent on GPS, from getting directions to getting cash from an ATM machine or trading on the stock exchange. These satellites will provide greater accuracy, and improved anti-jamming capabilities making them more resilient.”
Lockheed, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman had been awarded GPS III system readiness feasibility study contracts in 2016, but in the end, only Lockheed Martin bid on the new production contract.