The next-generation of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites arrived this week at a Lockheed Martin complex in Colorado. These new satellites are part of a $5.5 billion upgrade to the GPS system, a government-run satellite system that the military and consumers rely on everyday.
The goal of the new Block III satellites is to make GPS more powerful and more accurate than ever.
Block III GPS satellites have a more powerful signal and will be able to determine position to within three feet, compared to 10 feet with current technology, the AP reported. Users are expected to see major improvements in navigation and driving directions.
GPS systems don’t currently work well indoors, so the improvements will be a major breakthrough. The Block III GPS system is expected to be more reliable in areas where the current technology is shaky, such as under heavy tree canopies or on city streets surrounded by skyscrapers, or even indoors.
Block III’s higher-powered GPS signal will also be “harder for enemies to jam.”
The prototype that arrived at Lockheed Martin this week will be undergoing rounds of testing and won’t ever be launched into space. If all goes well, the first launchable GPS III satellite should go into orbit in May 2014. Ultimately the Pentagon wants to buy 32 satellites with the new technology from Lockheed Martin, but will continue using the existing technology for at least the next couple of years.