This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, with the goal of providing more accuracy and security in the face of jamming threats from adversaries, including Russia.
The Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite is set to lift off on December 18 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
It will be the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites that are designed to replace older ones currently in orbit and are being manufactured by Lockheed Martin. SpaceX won contracts to handle five of the first six GPS 3 launches.
Many of the leading features of the system will not be fully functional until at least 2022.
The cost of the system is estimated at $7 billion to $12 billion.
The Air Force controls a series of 31 GPS satellites from a high-security complex at an Air Force base near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The military says the GPS III satellites will have a stronger signal that will be more difficult to jam.
Norway accused Russia of disrupting GPS signals during a recent NATO military exercise.
Lockheed Martin says the new system will have three times greater accuracy and up to eight times more antijamming capabilities than the existing GPS satellites.