The U.S. Air Force has decided to wait until at least January 2008, to select the company that will build the military’s next generation of GPS navigation and timing satellites, according to a service spokeswoman. The selection of a prime contractor for the GPS 3 satellites had been expected this month.

The award of the prime contract for the GPS 3 satellites is likely to

slip into January 2008, as a result of a delay earlier this year in releasing the formal request for proposals for the satellites, according to Tonya Racasner, a spokeswoman for the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles.

The delay of the contract award will probably also delay the launch of the first GPS satellite, which had been expected to take place in September 2013. A January 2014, launch date is more likely, Racasner said Sept. 11 in a written response to questions.

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis, and Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., are leading teams competing for the GPS 3 prime contract. The two companies submitted bids for the contract

Aug. 24.

The Space and Missile Systems Center had expected to release the request for proposals for the GPS 3 satellites in May, but the document did not come out until July as program officials needed additional time to align it with the block acquisition approach that the service

recently has adopted on space systems, Racasner said.

The block acquisition approach, which was mandated for space systems in a memorandum signed in March by Ron Sega, who was undersecretary of the Air Force at the time, calls on the Air Force to bring new capabilities online incrementally with new satellite constellations, rather than having all new capabilities included with the first satellite. Sega retired from the Air Force

Aug. 31.

The GPS acquisition strategy calls for the contractors to be ready for launch within 60-72 months of contract award; the January 2014, date is based on a 72-month period, Racasner said.

Meanwhile, the Air Force recently announced plans to modify Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s design contracts to cover additional risk reduction work, according to a posting made on Sept. 5 on the Federal Business Opportunities

Web site. The posting did not state the anticipated value of the contract modifications.

The contract modifications followed an Air Force decision to delay Key Decision Point-B on the GPS 3 effort from August to December, according to the posting. Racasner described Key Decision Point B as a review that evaluates whether the service is ready to award a prime contract on a space program.

described the delay on that decision point as unrelated to the delay on the release of the formal request for proposals for the GPS 3 effort. Rather, it was intended to give

the GPS Wing and the two contractor teams additional time to reduce risk on the integration of the satellites with the next-generation control systems and new user equipment, she said.

The additional work by the two companies includes additional demonstrations of technical maturity and engineering integration, according to the posting on the Federal Business Opportunities

Web site. The companies

also will update their system designs based on recent

lessons learned, according to the posting.

The companies

also will provide revised total program cost estimates based on a planned first launch in January 2014, as well as cost estimates on what it would take to launch the satellites earlier, according to the posting.