WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force and Raytheon are working to restructure the company’s contract to develop the service’s next-generation GPS satellite ground segment, an exercise that will defer some capabilities and eliminate others altogether.
The restructuring of the GPS Operational Control Segment, or OCX, is intended to save money on a development effort that already has encountered delays, modifications, changing requirements and technical difficulties. Among the requirements being dropped from the program is the ability to support some of the older satellites in the GPS constellation, Air Force and industry officials said.
In a written response to questions, Doug Loverro, executive director of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles, said the goal of the OCX affordability initiative is to save $100 million. The time period during which those savings would be realized is unclear, however.
The negotiations are expected to wrap up with a revamped contract by the end of August, Loverro said.
OCX is the ground segment that will operate the Air Force’s next-generation GPS 3 satellite navigation system, which is slated to begin launching in 2015. The ground system is expected to support the GPS 3 constellation’s stringent accuracy, anti-jam and information assurance requirements, and be backward compatible with current-generation GPS satellites.
Raytheon Intelligence and Information Systems of Aurora, Colo., won the $886.4 million prime contract to develop the OCX in February 2010. The full system was supposed to be ready by 2016 but Air Force Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, said in April that the full capability date could be pushed back to 2017.
The OCX contract was awarded one year later than planned, and that, coupled with programmatic delays, has forced the Air Force to realign its strategy for assuring a smooth transition to the next-generation satellite system. For example, the service late last year awarded GPS 3 prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver a $21.5 million contract for a facility that will be used to control the initial GPS 3 satellites until OCX comes on line.
The OCX delays have eliminated the need for some capabilities, such as the need to control the GPS 2A satellites, which are expected to be out of operation by the time the next-generation ground segment is ready, according to Capt. Christina Sukach, a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In a written response to questions in June, Sukach said that change is part of the OCX affordability initiative, which was undertaken last fall to cut costs and reduce risk by “eliminating capabilities as well as aligning OCX deliverables with current [Air Force] need dates.”
Other OCX programmatic changes include delaying integrity monitoring of the GPS 3 constellation’s M-code military signals, reassessing overall integrity monitoring, and simplifying the system’s security architecture, Sukach said. Support for launches of the GPS 2F satellites — these are the current generation of satellites being launched — is being eliminated, she said.
“Under all these changes, the Air Force continues to ensure the long term health of the GPS constellation and optimization of resources,” she said.
Steve Moran, Raytheon director of GPS mission solutions, said in June that there had been significant changes to the OCX contract in the previous six months, including the addition of a launch and checkout capability in December. That contract modification was valued at $27 million.
Information assurance is a primary OCX requirement, and this has proved to be a “big challenge,” Moran said in an interview. “It is very important that we protect this system against the current and evolving cyber threats because they are real and the nation can’t afford to have this system compromised,” he said.
Loverro said it would be wrong to characterize the deferral of certain OCX capabilities as stretching out the program, something that would tend to drive up its costs in the long term.
“While OCX development has a limited period of performance (currently through FY18), the OCX system will be in existence for the foreseeable future,” Loverro said. “During that time, upgrades to the system will occur when they are needed and the technology is ready.”
Neither Moran nor Loverro could say when various OCX capabilities might be delivered. Loverro said the Air Force and Raytheon are “finalizing OCX delivery dates to match constellation sustainment needs” as well as the GPS 3 launch schedule.
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