System of Systems: GPS III bidding, testing

February 9, 2016  - By

GPS III Bidding Opens — Again

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.

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 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.

First GPS III Satellite Passes Critical Test

The first GPS III satellite has passed a critical on-ground, in-lab test, according to Lockheed Martin.

Rick Ambrose, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, tweeted on Jan. 13 that the satellite had successfully completed its thermal vacuum test (TVAC).

Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor on the GPS III program to build a total of eight GPS IIIs. The contract includes options for up to four more satellites, and the Air Force has told Congress it expects to execute options for at least two of those satellites.

The first GPS III satellite is expected to launch in 2017.



Coast Guard Issues Jamming Alert

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a safety alert on Jan. 16, warning mariners of the potential detrimental impact to navigation caused by GPS interference or jamming. The warning emphasizes the importance of understanding how vessel equipment could be impacted by the loss of a GPS signal.

The Coast Guard states that this past summer, multiple outbound vessels from a non-U.S. port suddenly lost GPS signal reception. The net effect was various alarms and a loss of GPS input to the ship’s surface search radar, gyro units and ECDIS, resulting in no GPS data for position fixing, radar over ground speed inputs, gyro speed input and loss of collision avoidance capabilities on the radar display.

Fortunately, the vessels were able to safely continue theirvoyage using radar in heads up display, magnetic compass and terrestrial navigation. Approximately six nautical miles later, the vessels’ GPS units resumed operation. Although the vessels had back-up systems to allow a safe transit, the consequences could have been severe, warns the Coast Guard.

IRNSS Launches Fifth Satellite

The fifth satellite in India’s Regional Navigation Satellite System rode into orbit Jan. 20, joining a growing fleet of spacecraft to provide positioning services to users across South Asia.

“With this satellite in place, within our country we will be able to get, 24 x 7, a good positional accuracy,” said A.S. Kiran Kumar, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).”

IRNSS 1E will raise its orbit to an altitude of nearly 36,000 kilometers (22,300 miles) over the next few weeks, entering an orbit centered on 111.75 degrees east longitude and oscillating up to 28.1 degrees north and south of the Equator.

Two more IRNSS spacecraft are due for launch bythe end of March to complete the constellation.

The seven satellites — four in inclined geosynchronous orbits like the one intended for IRNSS 1E, and three in equatorial geostationary orbit — will give India an independent navigation system with coverage over Indian territory and regions extending up to 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) from its borders.

India started launching its navigation satellites in 2013. Each spacecraft is designed to operate for 12 years.