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More than 100 experiments planned for NTS-3

More than 100 experiments will be conducted with the Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3), set to launch next year, according to a U.S. Air Force official and reported by FedScoop.

“We’re really excited to push the state of the art with more than 100 experiments on this little [NTS-3] spacecraft and we’re looking at ways that we can solve warfighters’ problems in the contested environment,” Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle, commander of AFRL, told reporters April 6 at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle

Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle

Set to launch in 2023, NTS-3 is designed to push the boundary of today’s position, navigation and timing (PNT) technology to pave the way for a more flexible, robust, and resilient architecture for satellite navigation technology.

NTS-3 is a product of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and industry, designed to test advanced techniques and technologies to detect and mitigate interference to PNT capabilities and increase system resiliency for military, civil, and commercial users.

Unlike the GPS medium-Earth-orbit satellites, NTS-3 will operate for one year in geosynchronous Earth orbit. Ultimately, NTS-3 will identify key aspects for new GPS receivers that incorporate multiple signals and readily adapt to warfighter needs.

The NTS-3 experiments will also involve ground equipment and terminals such as command and control stations and software-defined radios. Specific improvements to the ground segment will enable experimentation with automated “lights-out” operations, control station failover, and near-real time environment sensing and generation of error correction and tailored waveforms. Onboard systems will monitor clock accuracy and orbit parameters to mitigate errors and notify the user.

NTS-3 will test a new digital signal generator that can be reprogrammed on-orbit, enabling it to broadcast new signals, improve performance by avoiding and defeating interference, and adding signatures to counter spoofing.

AFRL also will explore antenna configurations to provide Earth coverage and steerable regional beams in multiple frequencies and signal codes. The NTS-3 satellite will be equipped with 110 antennas to help counter attempted GPS jamming.

Ultimately, NTS-3 is expected to provide users with enhanced signal stability, availability, integrity and accuracy.

L3Harris plans to deliver NTS-3 later this year. The company is assembling the satellite at its Palm Bay facility near Cape Canaveral, Florida. The plant was expanded in 2021 to accommodate the NTS-3 program.

Image: Air Force Research Laboratory

All images: Air Force Research Laboratory

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