The first GPS III satellite, nicknamed “Vespucci” in honor of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, arrived at Space CoastRegional Airport in Titusville in late August from Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, thanks to a lift from an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. Lockheed Martin builds GPS III satellites at its facility in Waterton, Colorado.

About a mile away at Astrotech Space Operations in Titusville, meanwhile, teams are set to perform mission readiness tests on the spacecraft to verify its health and readiness. Just prior to launch in December, the spacecraft also known as Satellite Vehicle 01 will be encapsulated in a protective SpaceX fairing and transported to Launch Complex 40 for the first-ever horizontal integration of a GPS satellite.

Maryland-headquartered Lockheed Martin was contracted to build 10 GPS III satellites for the Air Force’s existing last-generation constellation, which currently includes 31 in operation. Some upgrades for the new series include a doubling of lifespan from 7.5 to 15 years and triple the accuracy of previous generations.

SpaceX was awarded the $82.7 million launch contract – the first GPS mission for the company – in 2016.

Contact Emre Kelly at or 321-242-3715.  Florida Today

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