The U.S. Space Force recently announced that three more global positionings (GPS) satellites will be built for the military by Lockheed Martin Space as part of a $737 million contract.
The company is owned by Lockheed Martin Corp., which also builds GPS satellites. Lockheed Martin Space has been designing and constructing modernized GPS III satellites since 2008 when it landed contracts to upgrade the first 10 GPS III satellites that were upgraded.
In 2019, Lockheed Martin Space won a second contract to design and build up to 22 GPS III follow-on satellites, which became known as GPS IIIF. The agreement included a series of options to order satellites that could total up to $7.2 billion.
Satellite signals are the foundation of a multibillion-dollar civilian industry using location-based services, and the satellites provide military signals used for precise navigation, missile guidance and targeting.
This fall was the first time the Space Force ordered more than two GPS III satellites at the same time.
The $238 million per satellite cost is also lower than what the Space Force has been paying.
In October 2020, when the Space Force exercised its option for two GPS satellites, it paid $255.5 million each, almost 6.9% more than what it ordered this week.
In the GPS IIIF versions, Lockheed Martin Space has ordered supplies in bulk and used technologies such as augmented reality glasses in design tweaks, taking other cost-saving steps with the GPS III program that isn't always possible when building a smaller number of satellites.
As of the 13th GPS III satellite, an upgraded version of its LM-2100 satellite body will be used, designed among other things to enable in-orbit satellite servicing in the future. GPS IIIF's anti-jamming capabilities for the military can also be increased by 60 times in focused geographical areas, an ability that is meant to be helpful in combat zones.
Dedicated to GPS III satellite production, Lockheed Martin Space built an $80 million facility on its campus.
When Lockheed Martin Space had problems building the first GPS III satellites, the U.S. military explored competing bids for the 22 satellites that became the GPS IIIF contract. Lockheed Martin Space won the 2018 contract for that work.