The Global Positioning System (GPS), currently a 31-satellite constellation operated by the U.S. Air Force, will replace one older satellite with a GPS III SV2 when the new satellite becomes operational in Spring 2020. GPS satellites operate in Medium Earth Orbit at an altitude of approximately 20,200 km (12,550 miles) in six planes. Each satellite circles the Earth twice per day, providing the “Gold Standard” of position, navigation and timing services for billions of users worldwide.
GPS III, the newest generation of GPS satellites, has a 15-year design life, 25 percent longer than the most recent GPS IIF satellites on orbit. It brings new capabilities to users such as a fourth civil signal, the new L1C civilian signal, which opens the window for future interoperability with international satellite navigation systems. It also provides three times greater accuracy.
On August 22, the second GPS III satellite, named Magellan, successfully launched from Cape Canaveral on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV launch vehicle. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation is the prime satellite vehicle contractor. Magellan’s predecessor, Vespucci, launched in December 2018.