The Lockheed Martin team developing the U.S. Air Force’s next generation Global Position System III satellites has completed a key flight software milestone validating the software’s ability to provide effective command and control for the GPS III satellites planned for launch into orbit.

The milestone, known as Software Item Qualification Testing (SIQT), was completed for the satellite’s spacecraft bus flight software, which controls the spacecraft on orbit and monitors the health and safety of the satellite’s subsystems.  The software will next be integrated and tested on the first GPS III satellite, which is on schedule for launch in 2014.

“Completion of this flight software milestone demonstrates our continued positive program momentum and is another step forward in reducing risk up front to facilitate long term affordability,” said Lt. Col. William “Todd” Caldwell, the U.S. Air Force’s GPS III program manager. “In this challenging budget environment, the entire government and industry team is focused on delivering the critical GPS III satellites affordably and efficiently for users worldwide.”

Lockheed Martin is on contract to deliver the first four GPS III satellites for launch. The Air Force plans to purchase up to 32 GPS III satellites.

The GPS III program will replace aging GPS satellites, while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users. GPS III satellites are expected to deliver better accuracy and improved anti-jamming power while enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.

To further reduce risk, the flight software has already been integrated and tested on the program’s satellite prototype, known as the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST).

The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Lockheed Martin is the GPS III prime contractor with ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK and others as subcontractors.