The U.S. government is well underway on a $5.5 billion project to roll out GPS III, with the goal of making GPS more powerful and more accurate than ever.
Lockheed Martin announced that it had delivered its first test satellite for GPS III. This satellite isn’t intended to go into space: Instead, it’s a testbed prototype that will be be run through a broad range of tests, including being subjected to very low-temperature conditions and radiation to mimic the effects of being in orbit, along with interference tests. If all goes well, the first launchable GPS III satellite should go into orbit in May 2014.
As originally deployed for civilian use, the GPS system uses one type of radio signal, called L1 C/A. GPS III will add three new civilian signals to that mix — L2C, L1C, and L5 — while keeping the L1 C/A signal operational for a total of four civilian signals.
From the perspective of everyday GPS users, the most important may be a second civilian GPS signal, dubbed L2C. The L2C signal is a bit clearer and easier to receive than the legacy L1 C/A signal used by most GPS receivers today.