WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force Navigation Technology Satellite-3 — a flight experiment seven years in the making — is undergoing final tests ahead of a projected 2024 launch. 

A lot is riding on this project. The $250 million experiment led by the Air Force Research Laboratory aims to deliver novel technologies for space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT). It’s also seen as a test case for the management of the so-called PNT enterprise, which includes the satellites, the ground system and the receivers that allow users to talk to the satellites.

“In fiscal year 2024, we will launch and begin testing of the Navigation Technology Satellite 3, an end-to-end space-based prototype across space, ground, and user equipment segments to improve resiliency in contested environments against jamming and spoofing,” Frank Calvelli, assistant secretary of the Air Force for space acquisition and integration, said April 26 in testimony to the House Armed Services  Committee’s strategic forces subcommittee.

Biersgreen said a digital reprogrammable PNT signal generator allows new signal updates after launch so it can counter interference. It also has new features designed to defeat spoofing. 

The ground control system, developed by Parsons Corp., will be operated at AFRL Space Vehicles Directorate headquarters at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.

Ed Baron, senior vice president of Parsons’ space mission solutions, said compatibility testing with the satellite will be completed this summer.

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