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Lockheed Martin and Raytheon completed the first launch-readiness exercise for the Air Force's next-generation GPS III satellites, according to a Lockheed Martin release. "Completion of our first GPS III launch-readiness exercise is a major milestone for the entire GPS enterprise and is a solid indictor that our space and ground segments are well synchronized," said Col Bernie Gruber, who oversees the Air Force's GPS directorate. Lockheed Martin is building the GPS III satellites, while Raytheon is supplying the ground-based GPS Operational Control System, known as OCX, to run them. The exercise, completed over a three-day period by mission operations personnel, validated the basic satellite command and control functions, tested the software and hardware interfaces, and demonstrated basic on-console procedures, states the Sept. 5 release. The exercise was an important step in demonstrating that the companies remain on schedule to support the first GPS III launch as soon as 2014, states the release. (See also Lockheed Gets Contract for GPS III Checkout.)