New USAF RFP published for GPS III satellites

January 12, 2016  - By

The GPS Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) continues to look for someone to build 22 GPS III satellites in the near future.

SMC issued a request for proposals on Jan. 8, with rather complicated terms. The first eight GPS III satellites are already under contract, and two have been built, but delivery and launch schedules have dragged. The Air Force incorporated several other payload requirements for the satellites, beyond those of new GPS signals themselves.

This is the Air Force’s third effort to find a builder.

The RFP is for “11+ Phase 1 Production Readiness Feasibility Assessment. “ It covers GPS III space vehicles 11 and beyond. The process, if followed as the Air Force envisions, will award up to three relatively small fixed-price contracts.

Artist's concept of a GPS III satellite in orbit, courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Artist’s concept of a GPS III satellite in orbit, courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

According to an Air Force press release, “The scope of this effort includes the current GPS III SV01–08 technical baseline with the addition of redesigned Nuclear Detonation Detection System (NDS), Search and Rescue/GPS (SAR/GPS), and Laser Retroreflector Array (LRA) payloads, Unified S-Band (USB) compliance, Regional Military Protection capability No changes are allowed to the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) or Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) interfaces.”

The first Air Force effort to recompete the contract for future GPS III satellites came in 2014. A 2015 initiative lowered the bar as far as requirements, but also lowered the award very dramatically, from $200 million each for two companies to $6 million each for three companies.

The 2016 announcement appears on the surface to replicate the terms of the 2015 campaign. There has been no official explanation as to why the terms changed between 2014 and 2015, and why they did not between 2015 and 2016.