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C4ISR

'Gap filler' GPS upgrades advance

Upgrade and modernization efforts targeting third-generation Global Positioning System (GPS) ground stations are advancing, including a design review milestone for "gap filler" GPS III operations and upgrades to the current GPS ground control system.

 Lockheed Martin Corp., which holds several Air Force contracts covering GPS III ground stations along with producing the first ten satellites in the future constellation, said this week it completed a critical design review in mid-November. The milestone allows the contractor to proceed with software development and systems engineering to modify the existing GPS ground control system. The current system controls 31 GPS satellites currently in orbit.

The modifications will allow the ground stations to control GPS III satellites, including their positioning after launch, navigation and timing. The upgrade program is intended as a "gap filler" to be used until the GPS constellation transitions to the next-generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, which is currently in development by Raytheon Corp.

OCX development has been plagued by cost overruns and development delays.

The Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $96 million contract in February for GPS "contingency operations." The Air Force approved a proposed modification to the GPS ground station in May.

Earlier this month, the company said it completed an upgrade to the current GPS ground control system under a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) effort designed to turn the legacy control platform into a high-end command and control system. The COTS upgrade went online on Oct. 15 and is controlling the entire U.S. GPS fleet, Lockheed Martin said.

The upgrade included installation of commercial hardware and software intended to protect data and ground station infrastructure from cyber threats. The Air Force awarded the commercial upgrade contract to in November 2013.

In September, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $395 million contract for production of the ninth and tenth GPS III satellites. The first eight GPS III satellites are currently in production at a company facility outside Denver.

About the Author

George Leopold is a contributing editor for Defense Systems and author of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom."Connect with him on Twitter at @gleopold1.

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