GPS Ground Control Software Coming Together; Early Review on Track for April

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WASHINGTON — Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems has completed several blocks of software for the next-generation GPS ground system it is developing for the U.S. Air Force, and the program is on track to conduct its preliminary design review in April, a program official said Jan. 18.

At the same time, the Air Force plans to modify its contract with Garland, Texas-based Raytheon to deliver a critical portion of the GPS OCX ground system before it is fully operational.

The GPS OCX system will control the Air Force’s entire GPS fleet, including the new GPS 3 satellites being built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif. Rather than put a single prime contractor in charge of the program, as it has done in the past, the Air Force this time chose to hold separate competitions for the GPS space and ground segments.

Raytheon has been doing GPS OCX design work since 2007, when it was one of two firms awarded $160 million, 18-month study contracts for the project. In February 2010, the Air Force selected Raytheon over Northrop Grumman Corp. for an $886 million prime contract to develop, test and operate the system for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center.

During the first six months of the new contract, Raytheon worked with the Air Force to craft a detailed plan for the program’s cost and schedule milestones, said Bob Canty, the company’s vice president and GPS OCX program manager. In the latter part of 2010, the program completed its hardware preliminary design review and software specification review. Engineers are now wrapping up the third chunk of GPS OCX software, known as iteration 1.2, Canty said in a Jan. 18 interview.

“We are right now right on track with the program,” he said.

The current plan is to complete the full GPS OCX preliminary design review in April, followed a year later by the critical design review. The system’s software is expected to be finished in mid-2013, at which time the Raytheon team will begin deploying it to operations centers at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., to validate the system and train its operators, Canty said.

The last major overhaul to the GPS ground segment, a Boeing-led effort known as the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP), was initiated in the 1990s and became operational in 2007. Since the AEP program was conceived, computer technologies — along with threats to government networks — have become far more sophisticated, Canty said.

“If you take a look at the technologies when they built the legacy system in the mid-’90s, today you’re dealing with service-oriented architectures and [commercial off-the-shelf] technologies that have improved dramatically,” Canty said. “But by the same token, it’s become more complicated because we’re now dealing with information assurance problems we didn’t have to deal with years ago. So to some degree there are more complications added to it.”

Because the GPS OCX software will contain half the lines of computer code as the AEP system, it will be less expensive to sustain, Canty said. Another benefit will be the ability to transition from the legacy ground segment in a smoother and slower fashion than in the past, he said. The transition to the AEP system was abrupt, and after about 12 hours the changeover could not be reversed without rebooting the entire constellation, an extremely undesirable course of action, Canty said.

“We redesigned the system in a way that we can do an incremental transition,” he said. “We can transition vehicle by vehicle, or switch the navigation processing back and forth indefinitely. It’s not a one-hour, 10-hour, 20-hour thing; it could be six months to fully transition.”

Raytheon is under contract to deliver the fully operational GPS OCX Block 1 system to the Air Force in March 2015. The first GPS 3 satellite is slated for launch in May 2014, and it will initially be operated by the AEP system. But the new satellites are not compatible with the existing Launch/Early Orbit, Anomaly Resolution, and Disposal Operations system, which controls the satellites during launch, Canty said.

Because this system is separate from the AEP system, the capability will be bundled into GPS OCX in the future. But since GPS OCX will not be fully operational by the launch of the first GPS 3 satellite, the Air Force plans to modify its contract with Raytheon to deliver a subset of GPS OCX called the Launch and Checkout System, according to a Nov. 1 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website. The Launch Checkout System must be installed and tested by early 2014 to support the launch of the first GPS 3 satellite, the posting said.

Raytheon’s contract modification is expected to be finalized in the summer, Canty said in a Feb. 10 e-mail.

 

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