Northrop Grumman has secured a study contract to modernise the US Air Force's (USAF) global positioning system (GPS), which has been offering global position, navigation and timing services worldwide for more than two decades.
Awarded by the Air Force Space Command, the 26-month contract is based on the company's proposal for the next-generation GPS III programme.
The contract was awarded after the USAF invited bids for the development of new generation of GPS space vehicles that will deliver the advanced capabilities needed by military and civil users, while countering the future threat environment.
The company built and tested a navigational payload prototype over a radio frequency range last year, and a mission-tailored space vehicle leveraging the proven GPS supplier base.
In addition to current GPS III capabilities, the full-scale, fully populated prototype demonstrated significantly increased capacity and enhanced transmission power for the military code. This will enable operation in regions across the world where jamming is prevalent.
Northrop Grumman aerospace systems communications systems vice-president Tim Frei said: "Delivering advanced capabilities needed by military and civil users, while countering the future threat environment is an incredibly important mission, and we believe our producible and resilient payload prototype meets these requirements.
"We look forward to working closely with the Air Force to bring this capability to the warfighter."
The USAF will award up to three $5m study contracts in total during the third quarter this year. It is expected to launch a competition for 22 spacecraft in 2018.
In January this year, the company was contracted by the USAF's Special Operations Command (AFSOC) to provide advanced countermeasure systems for AC-130J and MC-130J aircraft.
Previously known as the Combat Shadow II, the MC-130J Commando II aircraft is an improved variant of the C-130J aircraft.
The special operations tanker aircraft is designed to replace the ageing fleet of MC-130E and P tankers.