The U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon a $886 million contract in 2010 to develop the next-generation GPS ground system, or GPS OXC. Credit: Raytheon graphic

WASHINGTON — Harris Corp. on Sept. 28 said it delivered the first of 34 modernized satellite receivers to Raytheon for the next-generation GPS ground system Raytheon is developing for the U.S. Air Force.

Aurora, Colorado-based Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services is the prime contractor for the Air Force’s behind-schedule and over-budget Operational Control System (OCX), which will eventually replace the current GPS ground system.

Harris, which is supplying a total of 34 GPS receivers plus encryptors and software under a 2010 subcontract Raytheon awarded to its legacy Clifton, New Jersey-based Exelis unit, shipped the initial production unit to Aurora after the hardware passed a critical electromagnetic interference test.

While the balance of the receivers Harris has yet to deliver will be installed in GPS monitoring stations around the globe, the production unit it just sent to Raytheon will stay in Aurora as OCX software development and integration continues.

In addition to the receiver, Harris has already delivered 14 ground encryptors that will help protect the GPS signal.

The Air Force in June declared a Nunn-McCurdy breach on OCX, which is five years behind schedule and $1 billion over budget. The declaration starts the clock on a process that will result in the termination of the program unless the Secretary of Defense vouches that OCX is vital to national security, is getting back on track, and the only reasonable option for getting the job done.

The Air Force has been struggling with OCX even as it gears up to pick a contractor to build the next batch of GPS-3 satellites. The first of eight Lockheed Martin-built GPS 3 satellites is now slated to launch in May. Earlier this year, the Air Force awarded $5 million production readiness contracts to Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to hone their proposals for building up to 22 more GPS 3 satellites.

The United States currently has 32 GPS 2 satellites in orbit.

Brian Berger is editor in chief of and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...