Air Force considers switching vendors on GPS III program

GPS III Satellite

Following delays in the production of its latest Global Positioning System III satellite, the Air Force is considering alternative vendors to Lockheed Martin Space Systems for up to 22 of the satellites in the future.

LMSS has contract for eight GPS III satellites and in April the Air Force awarded the company $245 million in options on the deal. But a delay in February caused by a problem with subcontractor Excelis’ navigational payload pushed back the launch of the first satellite from 2014 to 2015.

The Air Force recently issued a solicitation to see if other vendors could build a production-ready GPS III satellite “with an alternate navigation payload” to compete with LMSS beyond its current contract. Responses to the solicitation were due today.

The Air Force maintains a constellation of 32 GPS satellites launched in generational blocks. The current Block IIA satellites have lasted longer than expected, and while waiting for GPS III, the Air Force has launched Block IIF satellites to operate in the interim.

GPS III satellites are designed to be more accurate and more resistant to jamming than the current generation, and are expected to have a longer lifespan.

LMSS’ current contract for the first eight satellites isn’t in trouble, but the rest of the program could be up for grabs. The Air Force expects to award a new contract in fiscal 2017 or 2018, with the first of those satellites to be launched in 2023.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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