Lockheed Martin is set to upgrade as many as 12 Global Positioning System satellites, after receiving a $53 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. The upgrade will add three new locator signals to the three that currently are being beamed by the constellation of GPS satellites now circling the planet. Stronger signals mean that the system's military, commercial, and civilian users will be able to get a read on where they are faster and with less interference than in the past. The upgrades also will allow the USAF to reprogram satellites on the fly--a plus in the military's efforts to keep enemies from jamming the satellite signals, says Lockheed project manager Dave J. Podlesny.
GPS has become a pillar of commercial transportation and also helps boaters, hikers, and car drivers safely reach their destinations. But the signal can be lost in dense foliage or severe weather conditions. The upgrade will "double the power, and we'll be able to acquire signals much more easily," says Podlesny. Lockheed says the upgrade should be complete by 2007, some eight years sooner than originally planned.