Raytheon Company and Lockheed Martin have 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 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 demonstratedbasic 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.
“Completion of our first GPS III launch readiness exercise is a major milestone for the entire GPS enterprise and is a solid indictor that our space and ground segments are well synchronized,” said Col Bernie Gruber, the director of the U.S. Air Force’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate.
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.
“The completion of our first launch readiness exercise is an important milestone for the entire GPS enterprise,” said Keoki Jackson, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Navigation Systems mission area. “This achievement is a testament to efficient planning and synchronization by theU.S. Air Force and demonstrates that we are on track to deliver critical GPS III capabilities to military, commercial and civilian users worldwide.”
“This milestone represents the hard work and dedication of the entire GPS III and OCX government-industry team,” stated Ray Kolibaba, a vice president of Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems business and GPS OCX program manager. “This is another demonstration of the rapid progress we’re making on OCX development, while maintaining GPS space-ground enterprise alignment. I’m confident that we'll be prepared to support the first GPS III launch with an efficient, evolvable and secure ground control system built independently.”
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command, based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.