The System: OCX, GPS III Show Launch Readiness

October 1, 2012  - By
Illustration: Lockheed Martin

GPS III SATELLITE, artist’s rendering, courtesy Lockheed Martin.

Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin successfully completed the first launch readiness exercise for the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation GPS III satellites. The exercise is a key milestone demonstrating the team remains on schedule to achieve launch availability in 2014, the companies said.

The Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellites and the Raytheon-developed next generation GPS operational control system, known as OCX, are critical elements of the U.S. Air Force’s effort to affordably replace aging GPS satellites while improving capability to meet the evolving demands of military, commercial and civilian users worldwide. This is the first space and ground enterprise successfully building the ground control and space vehicles by two independent prime contractors.

The launch readiness exercise, completed over a three-day period by mission operations personnel, validated the basic satellite command and control functions, tested the software and hardware interfaces and demonstrated basic on-console procedures required for space vehicle contacts during the launch and early orbit mission.  The event sets the stage for the first GPS III satellite’s mission readiness timeline, which includes five short-duration exercises and six, five-day mission rehearsals leading up tolaunch.

To achieve first launch availability in the 2014 timeframe, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin and Raytheon contracts in January of this year to provide a Launch and Checkout Capability (LCC) for launch and early on-orbit testing of all GPS III satellites.  At the heart of the LCC is Raytheon’s Launch and Checkout System that will provide satellite command and control capability, an integral part of OCX’s  support of the first GPS III launch.

Rockets on the Pad

As this magazine goes to press on September 17, several GNSS satellite launches are pending, and may have already occurred by the time you read this. Launch dates this fall for GNSS satellites in the coming season are as follows, according to various, not always official, sources. Compilation courtesy of CANSPACE.

Compass M2 and M5. September 18, 18:12 UTC (speculative).

GSAT-10. Carrying a satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) transponder for  the  GPS-aided geo-augmented navigation system (GAGAN), a planned implementation of a regional SBAS by the Indian government: September 21.

Compass G6. No earlier than October 1.

GPS IIF-3. October 4. Launch window: 12:10-12:29 UTC.

Galileo IOV FM3 and FM4. October 10, 18:31 UTC.

Luch-5B. For the Russian SBAS. Originally scheduled for October 15, launch has slipped to no earlier than November 1 due to an issue with the Briz-M upper stage, which caused the loss of the Telkom-3 and Ekspress-MD2 communication satellites during their launch on August 6.

GLONASS-K1 (block K2s). November 14.

Photo: Raoul Kieffer

The fourth Galileo flight model satellite is unloaded at Cayenne Airport in French Guiana August 17. (ESA/EADS Astrium, Raoul Kieffer)

JAVAD: Filters Protect GPS L1, L2, L5; GLONASS L1, L2; Galileo L1, L5

Javad Ashjaee, founder and CEO of JAVAD GNSS, filed a September 7 letter with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concerning his company’s development of technical possibilities in GNSS filter designs and components. He stated “I hope this will be helpful in establishing realistic guidelines for the characteristics of high-precision GNSS receivers that will be used in critical applications.”

The letter reads, in part:

“We have improved our previous L1 filter and have extended the design to include all commercial GNSS bands.”

“Our filter . . . protects GPS L1, Galileo L1 and GLONASS L1 bands. It brings in all the useful signals intact and rejects out of band signals with the slope of about 12 dB/Mhz. Similarly . . . our filter . . . . protects GPS L2, GPS L5, GLONASS L2 and Galileo L5 and has slope of about 9 dB/Mhz.

“These filters not only protect GNSS signals against all LightSquared signals (10L, 10H and 10R handsets) but also from all similar signals that may appear near all commercial GNSS bands in the future. We are proud that our filters help allow better usage of these precious bands, in particular for broadband wireless communication that our country desperately needs.

“These filters apply to wideband high precision GNSS receivers and the cost is even less than earlier conventional filters. The case of narrow-band low precision receivers (e.g. Garmin) is much simpler, as has been demonstrated by GPS receivers in more than 300 million cell phones and mobile devices which are not affected by LightSquared signals. The low precision receivers (L1 C/A code only) require filter slopes 10 times less steep than those presented here and do not necessitate additional costs.”

Galileo Headquarters Moves to Prague

On September 6, the European GNSS Agency (GSA) inaugurated its new premises in Prague, Czech Republic. Previously headquartered in Brussels, the headquarters of the Galileo program moved its seat to Prague this summer, as agreed by the EU heads of state and government in December 2010.
Galileo is expected to be partly operational by the end of 2014. Two in-orbit validation (IOV) satellites will be launched in October, bringing the total in space to four, sufficient for initial check-outs.  Beginning in 2013, four more Galileo satellites will be launched every six months until the network of 30 is completed in 2020.

GSA ensures security of satellites and prepares ground for new GNSS products. The agency is responsible for a number of implementation tasks for the European Satellite Navigation programmes Galileo and  the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS), which are managed by the European Commission. Its two main tasks are:

  • Security accreditation of satellites, launchers, and sites, and the operation of the Galileo Security Monitoring Centre, and
  • Market development for the European satellite navigation systems, such as new products and services possible using Internet access to satellite navigation data, among others.

Future Role. A European Commission (EC) proposal for revising the GNSS Regulation foresees that operational responsibility for the GNSS programmes will be gradually transferred from the EC to the GSA over the next multi-annual financial framework (2014-2020). This represents a reversal of an earlier move, or a restoration of a previous state; after delays and budget disputes with manufacturers during the tentative public-private partnership (PPP) phase, the European Commission took direct control of the Galileo program, effectively sidelining the GSA.

The transfer of responsibility will start with EGNOS in 2014, and already a number of preparatory tasks have been allocated to the GSA, including the procurement for the future operations of EGNOS.

To carry out these new functions, the GSA’s staff is expected to increase from about 60 today to more than 180 by the end of next financial framework in 2020.

Budget. The GSA has an annual budget of about €12.75 million ($16.75 million) in 2012, plus €34.4 million ($45 million) for exploitation activities.
According to European Commission calculations, a total budget of € 7 billion ($9.2 billion) is necessary to complete the deployment phase of the Galileo programmes and finance the exploitation phase of the GNSS programmes over the 2014-2020 period.

Compass Energizes China’s Economy

China’s Beidou/Compass system will spur the country’s economic development in the satellite-navigation industry, geoinformation, and location-based services, according to an article in China Daily. China’s civil navigation providers are likely to experience rapid growth during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period.

The deputy director-general of the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation said the government is likely to introduce policies to help the geoinformation industry grow.

“In addition, the nation’s self-developed satellite navigation network, the Beidou Navigation System, will come into commercial use by the end of this year, a move that may stimulate the development of the geoinformation industry in China.”

Aviation NextGen May Show Slow ROI

An inspector from the U.S. Department of Transportation testified in Congress that benefits from the GPS-based air traffic control system Next Gen may take longer to realize than had been expected. Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has improved its management of the modernization program, years of delays and cost over-runs have left airlines dragging their feet in turn over multibillion-dollar equipment upgrades needed for the new system to work.

The inspector stated the investment will be worth the taxpayer cost in the long run, and will produce significant safety and scheduling benefits. U.S. air travel is expected to nearly double over the next two decades, bringing an unbearable burden onto the current air traffic control system, if not significantly upgraded.

By 2020, the new system is expected to reduce delays by 38 percent compared with the current system; airlines, passengers, and taxpayers are estimated tosave $24 billion.

The FAA plans to spend $2.4 billion over the next five years on a collection of six programs evolving from an outdated, radar-based system to one that uses GPS and telecommunications advances for precision tracking, making routes more direct, eliminating many weather delays, and enabling planes to fly safely at closer distances. Once fully in place, the modernization program will save 1.4 billion gallons of fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 14 million metric tons, the FAA says.

However, planes must be equipped with new equipment at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per aircraft. NextGen doesn’t start yielding full benefits until a critical mass of planes have the new technology.

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in GNSS