System of Systems: OCX to Cost More, Come Later

April 1, 2016  - By
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OCX to cost more, come later

GPS III program slowed by funds diversion

The next-generation GPS ground-control system, known as OCX.

The next-generation GPS ground-control system, known as OCX.

The White House budget request for the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) comes to $393.3 million for fiscal year (FY) 2017.

The updated OCX budget appears as the Air Force officially acknowledges a two-year delay in the program, which could slide as late as 2023 for implementation.

The total cost for OCX now amounts to $4.81 billion.

In a cautionary move meant to span a suddenly yawning gap in ground control capabilities, the GPS Directorate awarded a $96 million contract modification to Lockheed Martin Space Systems to provide GPS III Contingency Operations services (COps).

By the end of 2019, Lockheed will “modify the current GPS control segment to operate all GPS III satellites that are launched prior to the transition” to OCX, as well as GPS III satellite vehicle simulation modules, a GPS simulator and updates to the GPS Positional Training Emulator.

Late delivery of OCX Block 1 “puts GPS constellation sustainment at risk since the current control segment cannot operate GPS III satellites,” according to a Pentagon statement.

The Air Force will “re-phase the GPS III space vehicle procurement profile,” delaying procurement of the 11th and all following GPS IIIs to FY18.

User Equipment. In contrast, the Pentagon substantially increased its request for developing user equipment to $278.2 million for FY17.

The added funds for Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) seek to speed platform integration of M-code capability for munitions, warfighters, armored vehicles, planes and all military platforms: a stronger signal and data authentication capability.


OCX must navigate latest acquisition reforms

Acquisition reform mandated by Congress for the U.S. military, and known as Better Buying Power 3.0 guidance and initiatives, poses a tough new challenge for the Pentagon, not least for the Air Force and GPS.

This comes in the face of an impending (some say already underway) cyberwar targeting core infrastructure, much of it controlled or metered to some extent by GPS.

Under-Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall stated in 2014 that the United States is “under attack in the cyber world” and “we’ve got to do a better job protecting our things.”

The cyber realm changes and innovates much faster than the material weaponry realm to which the acquisition cycle is obsolescently tied. Currently, funding, developing and fielding a new capability is a multi-year cycle.

At the heart of this storm is OCX, a new ground control system for GPS that is meant to be cyber-hardened.

“The dynamic nature of the cyber threat, the catastrophic implications to attacks on our GPS-related infrastructure, and the relatively slow acquisition cycle demands the Air Force follow through with added funding to OCX,” wrote Robert Newton, a retired Air Force acquisition officer, in Defense News.

“Consideration of scrapping such an important program may sound politically correct, but would be disastrous and place us years behind an already escalating threat,” Newton said.

In the longer term, Newton wrote, both the Pentagon and Congress must develop new methods and closer cooperation to quickly anticipate and counter threats before they fully materialize.

GPS OCX will be a key test of the government’s and the military’s joint sability to function.


LightSquared testing: The sequel

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) announced in March that testing for the Adjacent Band Compatibility (ABC) Assessment will start in April. Conducted at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, White Sands Missile Range, the tests seek to determine power limits for spectrum bands near the GPS L1 signal.

Later tests will focus on potential interference with the L5 signal and frequencies of other satellite navigation constellations.

In 2012, after tests at that time demonstrated that the proposed LightSquared network of ground-based transmitters would interfere with GPS, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) denied LightSquared’s petition while authorizing further tests — never conducted until now.

Testing will take place across a 200-megahertz band spanning 1575.42 MHz, GPS L1. An interference tolerance mask is defined as the point at which the interference test signal power level causes a one-decibel degradation in the signal-to-noise ratio.

GPS and GNSS receivers designed for aviation (noncertified), cellular, general location/navigation, precision, timing, network-, and space-based application will be run through the high-powered gauntlet.

“The Department requests voluntary participation in this study by any interested GPS/GNSS device manufacturers or other parties whose products incorporate GPS/GNSS devices.” the DOT said.

Ligado, the renamed LightSquared company from 2012, came to separate legal settlements with GPS companies Garmin, Trimble and John Deere in 2015; the terms have not been disclosed.

“Use of a defined change in the noise floor (1 dB),” wrote a Deere attorney to the FCC, “provides a readily identifiable and predictable metric that all interested parties can take into account now and in the future.”


Lift-off of IRNSS-1F.(Photo: ISRO)

Lift-off of IRNSS-1F.(Photo: ISRO)

IRNSS nears completion

The sixth satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) launched on March 10, and all subsequent orbital steps proceeded according to plan. IRNSS-1F was injected to an elliptical orbit very close to its intended final orbit.

The Indian Space Research Organization’s (ISRO’s) Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan, Karnataka, took over the control of the satellite. Maneuvers will position the satellite in geostationary orbit at 32.5 degrees East longitude.

IRNSS-1F is the sixth of the seven satellites constituting the space segment of the Indian regional system. All five previosly launched satellites are functioning satisfactorily from their designated orbital positions.

A complete constellation of seven is planned for the second half of this year.

The first IRNSS position fix announced by ISRO, providing longitude, latitude and altitude, took place in April 2015. Since then, position fixes using stand-alone IRNSS receivers have obtained accuracies of better than 15 meters for a minimum of 18 hours in a day over India.

The regional SBAS broadcasts navigation signals in the L5 and S-band frequencies, and computes user position solutions for a restricted service and a standard positioning service.


GLONASS special K

A new-generation Russian GLONASS-K satellite began regular broadcasts on Feb. 15.

The K model line transmits five navigation signals in the GLONASS L1, L2, and L3 bands and carries a COSPAS-SARSAT payload for international search and rescue.

K satellites will gradually replace the GLONASS-M generation, bringing with them new CDMA civil signals compatible with GPS and Galileo.

Eleven new K satellites will take to space starting in 2018, using European and Chinese components as well as those being developed under an accelerated Russian import substitution program.

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