GPS 3. Credit: Lockheed Martin

WASHINGTON — Lockheed Martin will support the launch and on-orbit operations of the first two GPS 3 navigation satellites under a $68 million U.S. Air Force contract that includes funding for an initial satellite command and control capability being installed at the company’s Newtown, Pa., facility.

The command and control capability was necessitated by delays to the GPS 3 ground segment being developed by Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Aurora, Colo.

The first two next-generation GPS 3 satellites, under construction by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver, are expected to be ready for launch in 2014 and 2015.  Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, recently said the first satellite is now expected to launch in 2015 and that the Raytheon-developed Operational Control Segment, or OCX, will not be ready until a year after that.

Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s GPS 3 program manager, said during a May 31 interview that the Air Force will determine a launch date for the first GPS 3 satellite based on OCX progress, launch vehicle availability and a consideration of the service’s priorities. He deferred more detailed questions on the service’s 2015 launch date to the Air Force. Capt. Christina Sukach, a service spokeswoman, did not respond to a request for comment by press time June 1.

Lockheed Martin’s support contract includes health and performance monitoring for the first two GPS 3 satellites for their full 15-year services lives, the company said in a May 31 press release. “The contract will also support the operations of the Launch and Checkout Capability (LCC) at Lockheed Martin’s Newtown, Pa., facility, which will provide the launch and checkout functionality required to meet availability for the first satellite in 2014,” the press release said.

Lockheed Martin announced in January that it had been awarded a $21.5 million contract to develop the LCC in Newtown.

The LCC will enable the Air Force to launch the first GPS 3 satellite before the OCX is available, the U.S. Government Accountability Office said in a report released in March. Steve Moran, the director of GPS mission solutions for Raytheon, said part of the reason for the OCX delay is the company’s late completion of a preliminary design review finally held last August. The company plans to deliver LCC capability by May 2014, he said during a May 31 interview.

Moran also said new requirements from the Air Force have contributed to OCX delays. He said current plans call for delivering full OCX capability by March 2016.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin spokesman Michael Friedman said the latest contract is a fairly standard adjunct to the satellite construction contract. He said a small portion of the $68 million associated with that award will go toward the LCC.

Company officials are also making plans to launch two GPS 3 navigation satellites aboard a single rocket in the future, a cost-saving measure that Jackson said could also help alleviate potential launch vehicle availability issues. The Air Force intends to begin dual manifesting satellites with the ninth satellite, he said. Lockheed Martin, however, expects to be ready to support GPS dual manifesting in time for the launch of the fifth and sixth GPS 3 satellites in 2017.

Lockheed Martin worked with Denver-based United Launch Alliance to determine in April that dual launching satellites could save $50 million in launch costs per satellite, Jackson said.

GPS 3 is the Air Force’s next generation of navigation, positioning and timing satellites featuring improved accuracy and signal power for jamming resistance.

Lockheed Martin’s original contract to build the first two satellites is valued at about $1.5 billion. The company in January was awarded a $238 million contract modification to begin work on the third and fourth satellites in the series.