Defense firm Lockheed-Martin (NYSE:LMT) released a press statement yesterday announcing that its team developing the U.S. Air Force's next-generation Global Positioning System III satellites hit a significant flight software milestone validating the software's ability to control orbiting satellites.

The software item qualification testing (SIQT) included 131 individual tests of software that handles command and control functions of satellites in orbit and monitors the safety and functionality of its systems. Lockheed said the software will be ready for the first of the company's new GPS satellites, set to launch in 2014.

Lt. Col. William "Todd" Caldwell, the Air Force GPS III program manager, was quoted as saying, "Completion of this flight software milestone demonstrates our continued positive program momentum and is another step forward in reducing risk up front to facilitate long term affordability."

The GPS III program is designed to replace older GPS satellites, delivering improved accuracy, lengthening satellite life, and improving antijamming capability. Lockheed has a contract to deliver the first four GPS III satellites to be launched, with the Air Force aiming to purchase as many as 32 satellites in total.

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