Northrop Grumman Delivers U.S. Space Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite Platform

Northrop Grumman Delivers U.S. Space Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite Platform

Northrop Grumman Delivers U.S. Space Force’s Navigation Technology Satellite Platform

According to a report on the C4ISRNET website on June 29, 2021, Northrop Grumman delivered a satellite platform for the Navigation Technology Satellite (NTS-3), providing an important guarantee for the launch of NTS-3 in 2023.

As one of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) “pioneer” programs, NTS-3 is designed to demonstrate new positioning, navigation and timing capabilities that are expected to improve future generations of GPS satellites. For example, the NTS-3 satellite can provide steerable beams for area coverage, and its reprogrammable software-defined payload enables on-orbit updates.

NTS-3 does not affect the launch schedule of GPS satellites in the next few years, but may lead to improvements in GPS IIIF satellites, such as GPS III-14, 15 and 16, which will enter orbit in the late 2020s.

In addition to demonstrating future GPS satellite technology, NTS-3 provides additional geostationary orbit (GEO) PNT signals that can support U.S. military warfighters.

AFRL expects to test the NTS-3 satellite for a year before handing it over to the U.S. Space Force. The U.S. Space Force is expected to combine the NTS-3 with the Global Positioning System constellation.

AFRL awarded L3Harris a $84 million contract in 2018 to serve as the prime contractor for NTS-3 and to develop the payload. In August 2020, after passing a critical design review, the U.S. government approved the manufacture of the NTS-3 satellite.

“The delivery of the satellite platform sets the stage for L3Harris to build NTS-3,” said NTS-3 Deputy Principal Investigator. “L3Harris will conduct testing and begin integrating the NTS-3 PNT payload into the satellite platform.”

AFRL said that Northrop Grumman selected the commercial satellite platform ESPAStar-D for NTS-3, which is also in line with the general trend of US government satellite procurement. The ESPAStar satellite platform includes communications, power and control subsystems with standard interfaces for easy payload integration. It also features the Disposable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) developed by AFRL, which can stack multiple payloads on a single launch vehicle.

In addition to delivering the satellite platform, AFRL also delivered the Global Navigation Satellite System Test Architecture (GNSSTA) receiver, a reprogrammable software-defined device that can receive both GPS signals and NTS-3 Transmit advanced PNT signal.

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