Lockheed Martin’s prototype for the next-generation GPS III satellite successfully connected with Raytheon’s GPS Next Generation Operational Ground Control System (OCX) on Friday, Aug. 30, nearly two months after its arrival. Lockheed’s GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) in Cape Canaveral, Fla.—described as a full-size satellite prototype—connected remotely and exchanged commands with Raytheon’s Launch and Checkout System (LCS), part of a next-generation OCX.
The GNST received commands from the LCC node located at Lockheed’s facility in Newtown, Penn., via OCX’s servers located at Raytheon’s facility in Aurora, Colo. The system then returned satellite telemetry to the ground station, mimicking launch and early orbital testing. Keoki Jackson, vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Navigational Systems, underscored the significance of this milestone.
“The GNST is essentially a non-flying, functional GPS satellite. While we have connected OCX with ground-based simulators before, these C&I tests were the first time that OCX and a GPS III satellite have actually communicated,” said Jackson.
These sentiments were shared by Matthew Gilligan, a vice president with Raytheon’s Intelligence, Information and Services; he is also the company’s GPS OCX program manager.
“This was an invaluable early opportunity to demonstrate command and control of the GPS III satellite with LCS, proving the end-to-end system capabilities well before putting an actual GPS III in orbit. The positive results tell us that we are right on track for the first GPS III launch.”
Prior to being sent to the Cape, and after its development, the GNST completed a series of what are described as “high-fidelity” activities to reduce program risks, develop an integration, test and environmental checkout program, and improve efficiencies. This mimics the actual process GPS III flight satellites will eventually undergo at Lockheed’s new GPS III Processing Facility in Denver, Colo.
The GNST is an investment made by the Air Force as part of the original GPS III development contract. It has helped to identify development issues prior to integration and testing the actual first launch vehicle, called SV-01. It has been at Cape Canaveral since July, engaged in “dry runs” working in vehicle processing activities and pre-launch testing. SV-01 is expected to be available for launch by mid-2014. It is expected to be launched by the U.S. Air Force sometime in 2015.
Lockheed’s satellites and Raytheon’s OCX are critical to the Air Force’s efforts in modernizing and revitalizing the GPS enterprise to meet increasing demands from commercial, civilian, and commercial users alike. These satellites will be three times more accurate than current technology and will provide eight times more powerful anti-jamming capabilities. In addition, the space craft is designed to have a longer life, with “enhancements” extending its lifetime by up to 25 percent. It will also carry a new civil signal designed to enhance civilian connectivity.
OCX, developed by Raytheon, will also bring improvements to GPS systems, providing protection against cyber attacks and improved logistics. The company is described as being “on track” in delivering the final Launch and Checkout System by 2014.
The GPS III team is being led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. While Lockheed is the prime contractor for GPS III, the company is also working with ITT Exelis, General Dynamics, Infinity Systems Engineering, Honeywell, ATK, and others. While Raytheon is the prime contractor for GPS OCX, it is working with ITT Exelis, Boeing, Braxton, Infinity Systems Engineering, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
While thousands of civilians find GPS systems useful on land, in the air, or at sea, the Air Force Space Command’s Second Space Operations Squadron manages the GPS constellation for both civilian and military uses. This command runs out of Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.