GPS OCX delays continue

February 16, 2024  - By
Image: iLexx/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images

Image: iLexx/ iStock / Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images

New GPS ground stations that are contracted by Raytheon Technologies to replace the current ground stations have been delayed until July 2025, the Pentagon’s testing office reported.

The Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) is facing a new delay of 16 months, according to the 2023 Annual Report of the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation (DOT&E).

More than seven years behind schedule, the continuous delays have caused the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to go over its yearly budget and have sparked discussions as to future budget allocations for the U.S. Space Force (USSF) to continue to control and enhance the GPS constellation.

“These delays increase the risk that U.S. and allied warfighters will be unable to conduct successful operations in future contested environments due to the lack of access to modernized GPS position, navigation, and timing (PNT) information,” the Pentagon’s testing office said in a statement.

The M-Code can now be broadcast on 21 of the 31 GPS satellites in orbit. However, it is only available to a small number of military personnel due to both the OCX issue and a lack of radios and receivers equipped to access it.

The Space Force has a Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) program underway to develop new computer chip-carrying cards to retrofit existing platforms, such as aircraft and ships, so they can ingest M-code signals, as well as to develop a new handheld receiver. This effort has also experienced delays, according to a June 2023 report by the Government Accountability Office.

The 2024 DOT&E report notes that because of the delays in the development of the MGUE receiver cards, the Army and Marine Corps are now buying commercially developed receivers capable of ingesting the M-Code for fielding with ground vehicles.

Additionally, the DOT&E report cautions that because the OCX software is designed to be the basis for an upgraded system, OCX Block 3F, designed to control the planned next generation of GPS satellites called GPS IIIF, that effort also is likely to be delayed. The Space Force intends to launch the first GPS IIIF satellite in 2027.