Congress yanks OCX funding; Galileo grows

June 3, 2016  - By

Congress Yanks OCX Funding

SecDef Must Demonstrate Its Essential Nature

The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee withheld the full amount requested by the Pentagon for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 for OCX, the Next-Generation Operational Control System (ground control) for GPS, heretofore deemed necessary to operate the next generation of satellites, GPS III. The Pentagon had asked for $394 million in the upcoming funding cycle, to enable Raytheon to continue work on the program.

If allowed by Congress to continue, OCX may cost as much as $5.3 billion, and there is no certainty that the bill will not rise further.

The Senate committee will not release the $394 million until the Defense Department complies with the requirements of the Nunn-McCurdy Act governing defense programs. Otherwise, Congress could act to terminate OCX.

The terms of the Act now require the Secretary of Defense to conduct an in-depth review and then state that the program is essential to national security, is more important than other programs that will have to be cut to accommodate its cost overruns, and that there are no acceptable alternatives.

From the Defense Department point of view, the new GPS III satellites are essential because of, among other things, their signals’ improved resistance to jamming and cyberattack, an oft-cited peril in the modern global security scenario.

How GPS III could be launched — the first satellite is scheduled for sometime in 2017 — and operated without OCX is not entirely clear, although in February, Lockheed Martin received a $96 million contract to provide contingency control operations for the first GPS III satellites upon launch because OCX won’t be ready. Raytheon and the U.S. Air Force announced a month ago that OCX “successfully passed the first formal qualification test milestone” needed to check out the system and for the early monitoring of satellites in orbit. That “validates the maturity of the OCX launch and checkout system,” according to a statement by Bill Sullivan, Raytheon’s OCX program director.

Raytheon won the OCX contract in 2010 with a bid somewhat more than $1.5 billion. The Air Force recently made its FY 2017 budget request for $393 million as part of an overall anticipated program cost of $4.82 billion. However, a Bloomberg news report states that the total cost may have risen to $5.3 billion.

Galileo Launch and Production

At press time, the latest pair of Galileo satellites was expected to launch into orbit on May 24: the 13th and 14th satellites in the constellation.

A second launch is planned for this fall, carrying four satellites aboard a customized Ariane 5 for the first time. This would bring the count to 18 Galileo satellites in orbit by the end of the year.

Final Payload Delivered. Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in the United Kingdom has delivered the 22nd Galileo navigation payload to prime contractor OHB System in Bremen, Germany. This is SSTL’s final payload under Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC) Works Orders 1 and 2.

Europe’s 13th and 14th Galileo satellites lifted off at 08:48 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop a Soyuz launcher. (Photo: ESA)

Europe’s 13th and 14th Galileo satellites lifted off at 08:48 GMT from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop a Soyuz launcher. (Photo: ESA)

BeiDou 30 over 5

China plans to launch 30 Beidou navigation satellites during the five-year period 2016–2020, said Ran Chengqi, director of the China Satellite Navigation Office, during the China Satellite Navigation Conference in early May.

This would realize the country’s three-step strategy to build a global navigation system by 2020. A batch of 18 satellites will be launched before 2018. China and Russia have agreed to make BeiDou and GLONASS compatible, and BeiDou has successfully synchronized its frequency with Galileo, Chengqi added.

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About the Author: Alan Cameron

Alan Cameron is the former editor-at-large of GPS World magazine.