Lockheed Martin, contracted to build the third-generation global positioning system (GPS) satellites, expects the launch date of the first GPS III satellite to be delayed from mid-2014 to an undetermined date.
The company confirmed it has "been asked to look at scenarios with launch slips due to launch vehicle availability." Large satellites like those of the GPS constellation are only launched aboard evolved expendable launch vehicles (EELV), large rockets that are the subjects of great demand by various entities of the US government, including NASA and the Department of Defense (DoD).
"I would bet we'll probably get asked to slip a little bit," says Lockheed. While no official request has been made to delay the first GPS III, due for delivery in late 2013, programme officials believe a request is forthcoming.
The first GPS III is scheduled to begin construction in May, 2012, and programme officials confirm that the necessary components have arrived on schedule. Long-lead items for eight flight vehicles have been ordered.
Officials also confirm a dual-launch capability is in the works for future GPS satellites, to start no later than the fifth GPS III, which is currently scheduled for launch in 2017. Additional modifications, including extra solar panels and increased signal power will be included on later models.