Disruption or decay of the critical capabilities provided by the USA’s Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites would cripple both the US military, and many aspects of the global economy. GPS has become part of civilian life in ways that go go far beyond those handy driving maps, including timing services for stock trades, and a key role in credit card processing. At the same time, military class (M-code) GPS guidance can now be found in everything from cruise missiles and various precision-guided bombs, to battlefield rockets and even artillery shells. Combat search and rescue radios rely on this line of communication, and so does a broadening array of individual soldier equipment.
GPS-III satellites are a key part of this PTN (Positioning, Timing & Navigation) system’s future plan, offering several improvements over the existing GPS II family. So, too, does its companion OCX ground control system. This DII FOCUS article looks at the existing constellation, GPS-III improvements, the program’s structure, its progress through contracts and key milestones, and additional PTN/GNSS research links.