Lockheed Martin is updating the ground system support for the launch of the US Air Force’s (USAF) next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellites and M-Code operations.
Once the USAF begins to launch the GPS III satellites, the series of upgrades carried out on the current ground control system will enable the service to gain early command and control of the new satellites to conduct testing and operations.
Lockheed Martin was selected to upgrade the existing Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) Operational Control System (OCS), which operates today’s GPS constellation, under two contracts awarded in 2016 and 2017.
The two USAF contracts are called GPS III Contingency Operations (COps) and M-Code Early Use (MCEU).
Upgrades to the AEP OCS are expected to serve as gap fillers before the operational transition of the complete GPS constellation to the next-generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, which is currently under development.
The USAF granted approval for the company’s critical design for MCEU in April in order to support software development and systems engineering.
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This would help upgrade the legacy AEP OCS to the M-Code system. MCEU is slated to be delivered to the airforce in January 2020.
Lockheed Martin Navigation Systems programme manager Johnathon Caldwell said: “GPS III is coming soon and as these satellites are launched, COps and MCEU will allow the airforce the opportunity to integrate these satellites into the constellation and to start testing some of GPS III’s advanced capabilities even earlier.”
The USAF’s GPS III is a military communication satellite designed and built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems (LMSS) at the company’s $128m 40,000ft² GPS III Processing Facility near Denver, Colorado.
In January 2012, LMSS was awarded a $21.5m contract to perform the launch and checkout capability for all GPS III satellites.