Directions 2018: The GPS year in review

December 1, 2017  - By
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Lockheed Martin’s GPS III clean room in Littleton, Colorado.

By Col. Steven Whitney
Director, Global Positioning Systems Directorate

This year saw the GPS enterprise take big strides towards completing major acquisition and development milestones and overcoming significant program challenges.

As we close out the year, the GPS Directorate stands poised to launch the first GPS III satellite in 2018.

The GPS III prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, successfully placed GPS III Space Vehicle (SV) 01 into storage in late February. Following a comprehensive engineering review, SV-01 was determined to be Available For Launch in September.

Road to Launch. The GPS Directorate also kicked off its inaugural Road to Launch campaign this year, and the satellite recently completed a final factory mission readiness test in November. Just as importantly, production is in full swing on the remaining nine satellites with the SV-02 Available For Launch declaration expected early in 2018.

The GPS Directorate was also hard at work preparing the request for proposal (RPF) for a follow-on production contract that will add up to 22 additional GPS III satellites. As the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) finalizes requirements for the program, we stand ready to release the RFP by the end of the year.


For more perspective on the GPS Directorate from Col. Whitney, see Directions 2018: Resiliency key to new GPS.


OCX. While the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) continued to be a focal point for the DoD, the program has made progress in 2017 following a program restructuring. OCX completed the first integrated live-satellite launch rehearsal with GPS III in August.

A fitting capstone to the year’s achievement was the long awaited delivery in November of the initial version of OCX, known as the Block 0, to support launch and checkout of GPS III satellites. But while these are encouraging signs, there is still a long road to delivery of the full suite of capabilities in 2022.

The Contingency Operations (COps) program remained on track this year for delivery in 2019 to support interim GPS III operations. The program completed two (out of three) major software builds this year. The U.S. Air Force initiated a companion program, M-Code Early Use (MCEU), to enable limited M-code operations. MCEU is on target to complete its Preliminary Design Review in November 2017.

MGUE. Early this year, our Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program achieved acquisition Milestone B, allowing it to enter the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase.

Just as importantly, MGUE successfully completed two major risk-reduction events. First, the U.S. Army successfully demonstrated 81-mm mortar precision-guided munitions integrated with MGUE receiver cards to complete the first ever M-code guide-to-hit tests in March.

The Air Force then demonstrated a prototype MGUE navigation unit integrated into the B-2 bomber in four successful flight tests. These tests are an important step towards anti-jam, anti-spoof GPS capability, ensuring secure, robust protection for the United States and its allies.

So, as we close this year, I am encouraged by our recent successes, but with a clear understanding of the many challenges ahead on the road to GPS modernization. We remain fully committed to meeting our program commitments with transparency.

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