GPS Satellites Reach 200 Combined Years, Near Perfect Availability

The GPS IIR and IIR-M satellite blocks recently hit 200 combined years in operation with a near-perfect availability rate. The 20 satellites, which comprise approximately two-thirds of the full GPS constellation, originally launched between 1997 and 2009 and “have maintained an unprecedented availability record of 99.96 percent,” or 10 minutes of downtime per satellite, according to a Lockheed Martin release. “This is a tremendous GPS operations and sustainment performance milestone, and we applaud the men and women of the 2nd Space Operations Squadron of the Air Force’s 50th Space Wing, as well as the industry team who support them,” said Mark Stewart, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area, in the release. In reaching 200 collective years, the satellites have outlived the projected lifespan by 50 years already. Each were designed to last seven and a half years, and the oldest has now been in operation 16.5 years. Recently, the IIR-M satellites began early broadcasting of test civilian navigation messages. “Three of eight GPS IIR-M satellites have surpassed their expected life span and all satellites will have done so in 2017,” states the release. The company has started work on the next generation of GPS satellites, which are projected to deliver three times the accuracy, improve anti-jamming capabilities, and double the expected life of the spacecraft.