The US Air Force has approved Lockheed Martin’s design to upgrade the current GPS satellite ground control system with new capabilities that will enable it to operate more powerful and accurate GPS III satellites.
The successful Critical Design Review (CDR) for the Contingency Operations (COps) contract, completed on November 17, gives Lockheed Martin a green light to proceed with software development and systems engineering to modify the existing GPS ground control system, called the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) Operational Control Segment. The AEP is currently maintained by Lockheed Martin and controls the 31 GPS IIR, IIR-M and IIF satellites in orbit today.
The COps modifications will allow the AEP to support the more powerful, next generation GPS Block III satellites, enabling them to perform their positioning, navigation and timing mission, once they are launched. COps is envisioned as a temporary gap filler prior to the entire GPS constellation’s transition to operations onto the next generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, currently in development.
“The GPS constellation is a valuable asset to our warfighters, our nation and the world. This risk-reduction effort ensures the Air Force has the ability to maintain the constellation at full strength,” said Mark Stewart, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “We are here to support the Air Force and the GPS III program any way we can.”
The Air Force awarded the $96 million COps services and supplies contract to Lockheed Martin on February 3. The government approved the company’s proposed ground system modification during a Preliminary Design Review on May 11.
On October 15, under a separate contract, Lockheed Martin completed the Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Upgrade #2 (CUP2) project — part of a multi-year plan to refresh the AEP’s technology and enhance the system’s ability to protect data and infrastructure from internal and external cyber threats, as well as improve its overall sustainability and operability. CUP2 is now fully operational and managing the current GPS constellation.
Lockheed Martin has a long history of supporting ground systems, providing operations, sustainment and logistics support for nearly 60 Department of Defense satellites, including GPS, often allowing them to double their on-orbit operational design life.
Lockheed Martin also is under contract to develop and build the Air Force’s first ten GPS III satellites, which will deliver three times better accuracy, provide up to eight times improved anti-jamming capabilities and extend spacecraft life to 15 years, 25 percent longer than the newest GPS satellites on-orbit today. GPS III’s new L1C civil signal also will make it the first GPS satellite to be interoperable with other international global navigation satellite systems.