Even though the first GPS 3 satellite won’t be ready for launch until next April, it appears that the US Air Force is considering limiting the number of GPS 3 satellites launched and speeding up development of the next generation:
During a discussion of the service’s GPS 3 plans at an April 25 hearing of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) asked, “Is it better to continue that as opposed to starting a whole new fourth generation?”
Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said the Air Force has the option to either buy another 12 GPS 3 craft or move on to a new generation of satellites.
Shelton appeared to favor continuing the work on GPS 3, but added that the issue would be studied in the fall.
Lockheed Martin is currently under contract to provide eight GPS 3 satellites and until now it was expected that they would receive a contract for 12 more. Units 9 though 20 would add search and rescue capability, along with the ability to launch two satellites at once.
All this comes as the fourth Block 2F satellite is due to be launched later today, between 5:38 and 5:56 pm EDT.