CAMBRIDGE, MA—GPS is everywhere—on your phone, in your car, even on your wrist. Operated by the U.S. Space Force (USSF), GPS is a constellation of up to 32 well-spaced satellites that supports military, intelligence and civilian programs. And now that system is undergoing a major modernization with the debut of GPS III satellites.
“The GPS III system represents the next step in the modernization of the global navigation network, featuring a new generation of satellites that offers improved accuracy, better jam resistance and a new signal for civil users,” said Jan Anszperger, program manager at Draper. Since 2004, Draper has provided GPS testing and validation services to the U.S. Department of Defense.
In support of this mission, Draper serves on a team that includes SRI International, which provides GPS satellite high gain signal monitoring, and MITRE, which provides technical oversight and subject matter expertise on design of specific GPS signals and systems.
“Draper monitors each satellite 24x7 and supports testing of both satellite and ground system software and hardware,” Anszperger explained. There are currently two GPS III satellites on orbit, with others scheduled for launch through 2023.
Once filled out, the GPS III constellation is expected to bring three times better accuracy and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities. GPS III will also bring new capabilities to users, according to the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center, such as a fourth civil signal, the new L1C civilian signal, which opens the window for future interoperability with international satellite navigation systems and improves the signal’s availability for aviation, safety-of-life services and first responders.
Draper has supported the U.S. military’s mission for more than 75 years. The company’s knowledge of GPS signals is based on its extensive experience testing modernized signals, including the military code, or M-code—a stronger, encrypted, military-specific GPS signal designed to meet military positioning, navigation and timing needs. As an independent nonprofit, Draper provides unbiased assessments of technology and systems designed or recommended by other organizations, including satellite manufacturers, satellite service providers, ground equipment companies and satellite launch service providers.