mUNICH — Trans-Atlantic industrial cooperation on the future satellite navigation systems being built in both Europe and the United States has been put in the deep freeze because of U.S. technology-transfer restrictions and continued upheaval in the design and development of Europe’s system, U.S. industry officials said.
For the moment, they said, teams led by Boeing and Lockheed Martin are preparing for an expected request for proposals from the U.S. Air Force for the next-generation GPS system, called GPS 3, without including any significant European industry participation in their bids.
The GPS 3 request for proposals (RFP) is now expected to be released in the coming weeks, with a selection of a contractor late this year. The constellation will gradually be placed into orbit starting around 2013.
European industry, meanwhile, continues work on the Galileo constellation with no substantial U.S. participation. Galileo is scheduled to be in service around 2012.
U.S. and European industry had considered including each other in their respective nations’ work as recently as two years ago, and U.S. companies were part of an industrial consortium bidding for Galileo. That is no longer the case.
“I would never like to refer to something like this as dead,” said Donald G. DeGryse, Lockheed Martin vice president for navigation systems, referring to trans-Atlantic industrial cooperation on navigation satellites. “But ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] and export control in general is a major hurdle.”
In addition to the export-control regulations, Galileo’s delays and the continued uncertainty about who will have authority over the selection of the contractors who will manage the system has made U.S.-European collaboration almost impossible.
Michael A. Rizzo, director of advanced navigation systems at Boeing Co., said Galileo’s current unsettled state is not conducive to cross-border collaboration.
“I believe the door is still open, in both directions,” Rizzo said here March 8 during the Munich Satellite Navigation Summit. “We have had a fairly detailed draft RFP for GPS, and as we move forward with the full RFP we will be looking for opportunities. Galileo is not as mature. It needs more clarity on the baseline. Then the opportunity is there for U.S.-European cooperation.”
Rizzo and DeGryse both said GPS 3’s design will attempt to provide more flexibility so that, if new requirements or capabilities emerge even after GPS 3 satellite production has begun, new hardware may be integrated into the satellite.
Up to now, it has been costly and time-consuming to interrupt a production line to incorporate new capabilities. But GPS 3 will have to offer the possibility without the penalty of cost overruns or major schedule slips.
“What we want to offer is capability insertion as you build up the production run,” DeGryse said. “Another way of doing this is to offer a digital satellite payload to allow some level of reprogrammability once the satellites are in orbit. These satellites can last 13 years in orbit and you have to have at least some ability to react to user needs after launch.”
Rizzo said one example of new requirements is the appearance in Iraq and Afghanistan of improvised explosive devices — makeshift, low-tech bombs placed in the path of U.S. troops.
“If you asked me what [improvised explosive devices] were a few years ago, I wouldn’t have had any idea,” Rizzo said. “Now there may be a role for GPS in addressing this problem. But we can’t go back and redesign satellites that are nearing completion to do it.”