— The two teams competing to build the command and control system for the U.S. Air Force’s GPS 3 constellation have completed major system design work and shown that prototypes of their systems can command and control a dummy satellite on the ground.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems of Reston, Va., and Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Garland, Texas, have each been toiling for the past 16 months under separate $160 million Air Force system design contracts for the GPS 3 operational control segment, or GPS OCX. Both teams have completed all of the requirements of those initial contracts. Raytheon in February was awarded a new $23.5 million contract for further risk reduction activities, spokesman Keith Little said. Northrop Grumman spokesman George Seffers declined to say whether the mission systems group had received a similar contract.

The Air Force now intends to issue a formal request for proposals for the control segment by the end of March, and a prime contract is likely this summer, according to a March 11 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site.

GPS OCX will replace the current ground control system about a year before the first GPS 3 satellites begin launching in 2014. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded a $1.5 billion contract in May 2008 to develop the first block of GPS 3 satellites and deliver two satellites, with options for as many as 10 more. The first block of satellites will incorporate a new and more robust civil signal called L1C and increase the anti-jamming capability of the military M-Code signal. They also will be interoperable with
‘s Galileo navigation constellation. The two subsequent GPS 3 blocks are expected to boast even greater capabilities.

The GPS OCX program was conceived under the Air Force’s so-called back-to-basics approach of deploying mature technologies with well-substantiated cost and schedule goals. The Air Force originally intended to make a single contract award, expected to be worth more than $1 billion, to deliver GPS OCX in four blocks. The Air Force now, however, plans to limit the initial award to the first two blocks, which would be delivered in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Under the first block, the chosen contractor team will replace the current GPS command and control system with a new one capable of flying the current generations of GPS 2 satellites. The second block calls for adding the capability to command and control the first block of GPS 3 satellites. Subsequent blocks would further upgrade GPS OCX to support the second and third blocks of GPS 3 satellites.

Since beginning their system development work in November 2007, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have progressed through a series of milestones beginning with system segment reviews in early 2008. Raytheon’s OCX team includes ITT Corp., Boeing Co., Infinity Engineering Systems, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International and Braxton Technologies. Northrop Grumman is teamed with Harris Corp., Lockheed Martin and Infinity Systems Engineering.

After completing a system design review in December, the Air Force certified that Raytheon had a low-risk design capable of meeting all requirements, Bob Canty, Raytheon’s GPS OCX vice president and program manager, said in an interview. That same week, Raytheon used its prototype model to remotely command and control a dummy GPS 2R-M satellite bus and payload on the ground at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
, Canty said.

“The Air Force in executing the system design and risk reduction phase intended to get to the point where they had a very low-risk position before going forward on the program,” Canty said. “The government implemented some best practices on OCX, including the block approach to development where we deliver incremental capabilities and a focus on 80 percent cost and schedule confidence.

“We executed to our original proposed schedule, achieving all milestones on time and even exceeded requirements on some milestones.”

Northrop Grumman successfully controlled the dummy GPS satellite and payload in December and completed its system design review in January, Steve Bergjans, Northrop Grumman’s OCX vice president and program manager, said in an interview.

“I believe in terms of hitting the marks in the system design review and the engineering model and all the major milestones, I couldn’t be prouder of what this team accomplished in a short period of time,” Bergjans said. “I’d also like to say what a great team the Air Force has working on this program. It is very difficult with the amount of scrutiny and amount of sheer requirements the Air Force has to work through, and that is compounded having to do it with two contractors.”