It’s a Mad, Mad, Maddenless World

February 9, 2010  - By

Call it Madden withdrawal. It’s bad enough that I just endured Super Bowl XLIV without the smooth and engaging color commentary of the iconic John Madden, the legendary Hall of Fame, Super Bowl XI winning coach and virtual football entrepreneur. This year I patently missed John’s pithy commentary and the distinctive timbre of his voice. Coach Madden’s broadcast career has continued for more than thirty years and his instantly recognizable voice always invokes the desire to watch a football game. I would watch any game he color-commentated even if I did not particularly care about the competitors. It just wasn’t the same Super Bowl this year without John Madden, but somehow I soldiered on.

Col. David Madden.

Col. David Madden.

The other Madden I’m going to miss and so will many of you, even if you don’t know it yet, is Colonel David Madden (USAF). Dave serves as the GPS Wing Commander at SMC (Space & Missile Systems Center) in Los Angeles, California, and will be stepping down as early as May, and hanging up his U.S. Air Force uniform at the same time. Dave has been the voice of GPS for many of us since he became the GPS Vice Wing Commander in July 2006. He became the commander in June of 2007, but he made his presence known the minute he landed at SMC. Dave has been a hard charger for the last 30 years and has numerous accomplishments of which he can be justly proud, but Dave hit his stride when he arrived at the GPS Wing. He was the right leader in the right place at the right time. Dave was immediately credible in the GPS world because of his previous forays in the classified and unclassified space arena.

Colonel Madden, the consummate military professional, who once described himself as a dangerous entity because he thought outside the box known as the military establishment, displays the immediately recognizable confidence of a leader who knows his job and emphatically embraces his mission; yet he is not overly arrogant and is always willing to listen. Sometimes he even deigns to speak honestly and openly to journalists. Dave has been the undisputed leader of the GPS Wing at a time when leadership was sorely needed. He used his engineering, systems management, and leadership expertise to create a cohesive team at the GPS Wing that simply and consistently gets the job done. His GPS accomplishments are many, but his greatest may be that he put the GPS back on the path as the PNT (Position, Navigation and Timing) and GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) gold standard for the world. He knows how to listen and take advice, and he knows when to stop debating, discussing, and dare I say arguing, and make the hard decisions. He and his finely honed force at SMC work tirelessly and intelligently to grow the GPS constellation in size and accuracy, but most importantly he is relentless in his support of the warfighter during a time of war.

Colonel Madden is a true patriot and fortunately he is not going far; rumor has it he will soon be an SES (Senior Executive Service) government civilian in yet another important space sector at SMC. Dave will be sorely missed by those of us that have had the honor to work closely with him in the GPS global arena for the past four years. Best of luck, Dave.

Col. Bernard J. Gruber.

Col. Bernard J. Gruber.

Of course we also give a hearty welcome to Colonel Bernard J. (Bernie) Gruber, the new GPS Wing Commander or SPO (Special Program Office) director, as there is apparently a name and responsibility change or regression under way at SMC for various Wing-level organizations. Colonel Gruber served previously at SMC in the former GPS SPO in the user equipment office, the foreign military sales office, and as the program manager for Advanced Military Devices. So while he is not new to the space business or to GPS, he does have some large shoes to fill and we wish him well. If Bernie is half as smart as we know he is, he will be having some long and candid conversations with Mr. Madden, and I don’t mean the football legend.


There is so much happening in the PNT world that I could write a book. I promise not to do that, but an in-depth column is appropriate and you will see that in the near future. For now, allow me to quickly update the status of several ongoing programs and recent events.


We scooped the world at GPS World on 24+3 and fortunately everything is on schedule and working as planned. Two of the satellites are currently in their long transfer orbits and SVN 26 should start to move this week. Both SVN 24 and SVN 26 are Block-IIA satellites and are consequently a bit long in the tooth; 11 of the original 19 IIAs launched between 1990-1997 remain on orbit. These geriatric satellites are presently operating on different types of atomic clocks but their overall timing accuracy is not diminished, still averaging 1x10E-14. SVN 24 is currently utilizing a Caesium (also written Cesium) atomic clock and SVN 26 is utilizing a Rubidium atomic clock. This is a good mix for the plus three satellites as Caesium is nominally better over the long term for time stability and Rubidium is stable over a shorter period of time without periodic updates.

See Eric Gakstatter’s recent articles in GPS World for more technical information on the new locations for the three GPS satellites that are, or about to be, on the move.




I received a plethora of mail recently either asking or raging about the status of the Boeing IIF, next generation of GPS satellites. I won’t even attempt to recount all the schedules and budgets this critical program has busted. The important point is, according to the latest schedule, sometime this month, hopefully in the next 10 days, IIF-SV1 will arrive at Cape Canaveral in Florida where it will subsequently be integrated with the Delta IV EELV or Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle. This will be the first EELV to launch a GPS satellite; therefore, the integration and testing times, both on the ground and on orbit, are expected to be considerably more extensive than normal. Plus there are some unique features of the Delta IV that bear watching. The first stage of a Delta IV consists of one or, in the heavy variety, three Common Booster Core(s) (CBC) powered by a Rocketdyne RS-68 engine. Unlike most first-stage legacy rocket engines, which use solid fuel or kerosene, the RS-68 engines burn liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. The RS-68 is the first large, liquid-fueled rocket engine designed in the U.S. since the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) in the 1970s, and at more than 63 meters or 206.7 feet in length, the Delta IV (at right) is the tallest rocket in active use.

When you see images of the first GPS IIF launch, the perspective will be a bit different from the venerable Delta II GPS launches of the past.

AEP 5.5C Update

The GPS Wing and 2SOPS (2nd Space Operations Squadron) initiated a software update (see my column in last month’s GPS World) of the ground command and control (C2) system for GPS on January 11, 2010, over a month ago as you read this. To put it mildly, the update did not go as smoothly as planned. There were immediate problems with certain military, commercial, and civilian receivers, plus some other system glitches appeared that are reportedly unrelated. To ensure there aren’t any more unknown receiver problems lurking in the shadows, the GPS Wing issued a unique NANU (Notice Advisory to NAVSTAR Users) through the NAVCEN (U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center) for civilian and commercial GPS users, and through the GPSOC (GPS Operations Center) for military users, asking for user comments. The GPS is so ubiquitous, and there are so many global receiver manufacturers with so many different GPS receivers on the market today that, not surprisingly, the GPS Wing has been unable to keep track. It is a Herculean task and therefore instead of checking and certifying every GPS receiver manufactured, the GPS Wing issued an updateable ICD or Interface Control Document that all receiver manufacturers use as a voluntary guide to determine compliance. However, even the ICD leaves room for interpretation and is more ambiguous than the GPS Wing intended, so it should come as no surprise that there were and are still receiver issues following the latest AEP update. The GPS Wing is currently receiving more help than they think they need, but this too shall pass; it will just take time. The GPS Wing did not revert to AEP 5.4 (the previous version) because of the upcoming IIF-SV1 launch. The scheduled sequential AEP 5.5C and AEP 5.5D updates are required before the ground control segment can adequately control the more advanced capabilities of the IIF satellites.

The actionable aspect of this update and NANU is that if you are experiencing any problems or glitches with your GPS receiver that occurred after the January 11 update, then you should notify the 2SOPS if it is a military receiver and the NAVCEN if it is a civilian or commercial receiver. The original deadline was January 29, 2010, but I have it on good authority that reports are still being received. So, if you have a GPS receiver issue, please report it.

Military users can find additional information on the GPSOC SIPRNet (classified) website. If you don’t have access to this classified military site, then access the unclassified and unsecured military website or the secure but unclassified military website. You can also call the GPSOC at (military switch) DSN 560-2541, or commercial 719-567-2541. You can also communicate using their e-mail address: As an alternative, contact the Joint Space Operations Center at (military switch) DSN 276-3514 or commercial 805-606-3514. E-mail the JSpOC at

For civil and commercial users, the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center’s address is:

7323 Telegraph Road
Alexandria, VA 20598-7310

You can contact NAVCEN by telephone at (703) 313-5900 or go to its comprehensive website.

GPS Civil Focus Day

On February 3 the Commander of HQ Air Force Space Command, General C. Robert Kehler, hosted the 2nd GPS Civil Focus Day. This event was long overdue; the last one occurred more than five years ago. It was one of the best updates I have attended that was specifically crafted for the civilian community. My hat is off to Colonel Dave Buckman and crew for all their hard work that made this event such a success. There were numerous government VIPs present, and it would take several columns to review their input, but suffice it to say the briefings and discussions were candid, informative, and unfortunately not for attribution. Therefore, before I can reveal more I need to be granted permission and that is in the works. Meanwhile we will post the cleared GPS Civil Focus Day briefings on the GPS World website, so watch the GPS World daily news for the location. The important point is that this high-level meeting of the minds underscored that GPS, the global PNT gold standard, is and always has been a dual-use system, and the USAF on behalf of the U.S. government is working hard to meet everyone’s global PNT needs.

Mobile Epiphany and Touch Inspect

To wrap up the column this month, I want to say thanks to everyone who has written me concerning the Touch Inspect software application from Mobile Epiphany I mentioned in my December 2009 GPS World column. The response from the military, civil, and commercial communities has been simply overwhelming, and therefore I am planning an in-depth review of this versatile application in a future issue. I have not historically, as a rule, reviewed software to the same degree that I have hardware, but in this case I am impressed with the application, especially the superb integration of GPS capabilities and the user interface. So a review is in order. Watch this space.

Until next time happy navigating and keep those cards, letters, and e-mails coming.


This article is tagged with and posted in Defense, Opinions

About the Author: Don Jewell

Don Jewell served 30 years in the United States Air Force, as an aviator and a space subject-matter expert. Don’s involvement with GPS and other critical space systems began with their inception, either as a test system evaluator or user. He served two command assignments at Schriever AFB, the home of GPS, and retired as Deputy Chief Scientist for Air Force Space Command. Don also served as a Politico Military Affairs Officer during the Reagan administration, working with 32 foreign embassies and serving as a Foreign Disclosure Officer making critical export control decisions concerning sophisticated military hardware and software. After retiring from the USAF, Don served seven years as the senior space marketer and subject-matter expert for two of the largest government contractors dealing in space software and hardware. Don currently serves on two independent GPS review teams he helped found, and on three independent assessment teams at the Institute for Defense Analyses, dealing with critical issues for the U.S. government. Don has served on numerous Air Force and Defense Scientific Advisory Boards. He writes and speaks extensively on technical issues concerning the U.S. government. Don earned his Bachelor’s degree and MBA; the Ph.D. is in progress.