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Who runs GPS?

February 16, 2023  - By

Operational Control

Department of Defense (DOD)
U.S. Space Force (USSF) Space Operations Command (SPOC)

HQ: Peterson SFB, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Commander: Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting
Visit: www.spoc.spaceforce.mil

SPOC generates, presents, and sustains combat-ready intelligence, cyber, space and combat support forces and serves as the USSF service component to USSPACECOM.

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Space Delta 8
Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
Commander: Col. David A. Pheasant
“Team Blackjack”

Working together, the following squadrons are responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of GPS, including its ground and space segments.

  • 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2 SOPS) is an active-duty squadron consisting of approximately 115 officers, enlisted, and civilian personnel. Its members fill many roles, including spacecraft operations, ground segment maintenance and upgrade, and support to user operations. In addition to current operations, 2 SOPS assist with future planning for new spacecraft capabilities and ground segment components, including the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX).
  • 19th Space Operations Squadron (19 SOPS), an Air Force Reserve component, provides critical augmentation to current and future GPS operations. The squadron’s members, alongside their 2 SOPS counterparts, execute day-to-day operation of the GPS constellation, support on-orbit engineering efforts, and play a crucial role in the eventual adoption of OCX.
  • 8th Combat Training Squadron (8 CTS) trains space operators to operate the GPS constellation. They are responsible for enforcing the standard to which all 2/19 SOPS operators will be held. Before operators can sit on a console and operate the live GPS mission, they must successfully complete training conducted by 8 CTS.
  • 310th Operations Support Squadron (310 OSS) is a reserve Air Force squadron nested under the 310th Operations Group. Just like the 19 SOPS, it trains active duty and reserve personnel in concert with 8 CTS.

GPS Master Control Station (MCS)
Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado
(Alternate MCS at Vandenberg SFB)

Monitors and controls the GPS satellite constellation and its ground assets, GPS monitor stations and GPS ground antennas. GPS monitor stations (at both USSF and National Geospatial Intelligence Agency sites) around the world track the satellites’ navigation signals and relay the information to the MCS, which continuously processes this information, determines each satellite’s precise location in space, and updates the satellites’ navigation messages through GPS ground antennas.

 

The MCS sends updated navigation information to GPS satellites through dedicated GPS ground antennas at Ascension Island, the atolls of Kwajalein and Diego Garcia, and Cape Canaveral, Florida, as well as via the USSF’s Satellite Control Network (SCN). These ground antennas transmit commands to satellites and receive the satellites’ state-of-health information.

Each of the monitoring stations checks the exact altitude, position, speed and overall health of the orbiting satellites. The control segment uses measurements collected by the stations to predict the behavior of each satellite’s orbit and clock. The prediction data is transmitted to the satellites for transmission back to the users.

The control segment also ensures that the GPS satellite orbits and clocks remain within acceptable limits. It can command six satellites at a time and monitors all 38 by ingesting data from the global set of monitoring stations. Each monitoring station can track up to 12 satellites at a time continuously as the satellites complete their journeys around the Earth. Noted variations — such as those caused by the gravity of the Moon and the Sun and the pressure of solar radiation — are passed along to the MCS.

GPS is managed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by a crew of no less than 10 personnel primarily from 2 SOPS and 19 SOPS. A military officer is always in command and the crew includes a team to receive requests for testing or to troubleshoot military and civilian user issues. The ground antennas and monitoring stations are controlled remotely from the MCS by the crew.

The Alternate GPS Master Control Stations (AMCS), located on Vandenberg SFB, California, mirrors MCS’s capabilities and provides redundancy.

GPS Warfighter Collaboration Cell
This 24/7 user-focused center supports a wide variety of military, civilian and commercial users and applications.

746th Test Squadron
Holloman AFB, New Mexico
Commander: Lt. Col. Brian V. Davis

This is DoD’s designated lead test organization chartered to test and evaluate GPS user equipment (UE) and integrated GPS based guidance and navigation systems. Aka the Central Inertial and GPS Test Facility (CIGTF), the 746 TS is a leader in inertial, GPS, and blended GPS/inertial component and system testing. To this end, the CIGTF directly supports GPS acquisition programs, capability development initiatives and anomaly resolution.

Read more to learn about key partners and contributors. 

About the Author: Matteo Luccio

Matteo Luccio, GPS World’s Editor-in-Chief, possesses more than 20 years of experience as a writer and editor for GNSS and geospatial technology magazines. He began his career in the industry in 2000, serving as managing editor of GPS World and Galileo’s World, then as editor of Earth Observation Magazine and GIS Monitor. His technical articles have been published in more than 20 professional magazines, including Professional Surveyor Magazine, Apogeo Spatial and xyHt. Luccio holds a master’s degree in political science from MIT. He can be reached at mluccio@northcoastmedia.net or 541-543-0525.