The Global Positioning System Next-Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX) by Raytheon Technologies [RTX] has some critical hardware and software deficiencies and several hundred major and minor computer flaws, but the program said that it is resolving them, as it prepares to demonstrate GPS OCX features by the end of October.
Raytheon has said that GPS OCX “will provide improved accuracy of the current system and will be able to fly more than twice as many satellites”–an increase that the company said “will increase coverage in hard-to-reach areas such as urban canyons and mountainous terrain.”
On March 26, 2020, U.S. Space Force said that it told Raytheon to replace GPS OCX’s IBM [IBM] computer hardware before the delivery of GPS OCX due to the sale of IBM’s computer product line to Lenovo, owned by China (Defense Daily, June 17, 2021). Space Force said that it had successfully tested alternative computer hardware made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise [HPE], a U.S. company, in a pilot project after HPE’s selection in 2017.
That pilot project replaced IBM hardware with HPE’s in the 17 monitoring stations for GPS and four GPS ground antenna sites, U.S. Space Force said.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its weapon systems annual assessment this month that COVID-19 related travel restrictions and technical problems had delayed by one year the global deployment of the 17, modernized GPS signal monitoring stations worldwide and had shifted the planned delivery date of GPS OCX Blocks 1 and 2 from April, 2022 to October this year, thus shortening the period between delivery and the planned start of operations (Defense Daily, June 13).
The GAO also said said that the GPS OCX program “reported that there are over 6,000 software deficiencies as of December 2021,” yet, the GPS OCX program said that focusing on the number of reported computer flaws “can be misleading,” as some represent investigations by Raytheon into duplicative technical issues and/or represent lesser, Severity 4 deficiencies in which operations are not affected.
“The OCX program is currently tracking a few Severity 1 [critical] and around 400 Severity 2-3 [major and minor] hardware and software DRs [Deviation Reports] that are deemed to impact segment level requirements compliance,” the GPS OCX program said in an email response to questions. “By contrast, in December 2021 the program was tracking around 700 such DRs, some of which were tied to the IBM baseline. Software DR resolution rates have accelerated in 2022. For these reasons, the DR number cited in the report does not represent substantial risk to OCX performance.”
While the program installed the 17 monitoring stations by July last year, the expected delay in the delivery of GPS OCX Blocks 1 and 2 “reduces the program’s time to absorb further delays before operations start or to fix problems after delivery, risking the planned April 2023 initial operational capability [IOC] date,” GAO said.
The GPS OCX program said, however, that April 2023 does not mark IOC. “OCX is still working towards an April 2023 Ready to Transition to Operations acquisition milestone (not an Initial Operational Capability per se), but there is risk to meeting that date–some driven by technical progress and some driven outside the program control due to real world events.”
The latter represent “taskings associated with our current operations and day-to-day missions,” Space Force said on June 27. Asked to enumerate on such “real world events” that could delay GPS OCX, Space Force’s Space Systems Command referred the question to U.S. Space Command, which referred the question to Space Force leaders.
Russia has interfered with GPS signals to cloak the movement of Russian forces in Ukraine–interference detailed in April by HawkEye 360 (Defense Daily, Apr. 25).
The GPS OCX program said that its “full attention is on additional mission software testing on the more modernized HP-based servers, verifying fielded equipment and preparing for operations” and that “the pre-delivery system-level demonstration is projected to complete in October 2022.”
GPS OCX Blocks 1 and 2 are to control older GPS II and newer GPS III satellites, launched starting in 2018, and both older and modernized signals. On April 30 last year, U.S. Space Force awarded Raytheon a $234 million contract for the development of GPS OCX IIIF by Aug. 30, 2025 for the GPS IIIF satellites.
“The program reported that there was a funding shortfall for upgrading the hardware needed for the GPS IIIF satellite launch and checkout system,” per the GAO weapon systems annual assessment this month. “To resolve this issue, the program plans to use an existing facility that was built for testing and sustainment.”
Raytheon’s Intelligence and Space division said this month that it has completed deployment of the GPS OCX master control station and transition support facility at Schriever Space Force Base, Colo., and “completed the Block 1 Certificate of Conformance in December 2021, representing software qualification against the legacy IBM hardware baseline.”
Cost estimates for GPS OCX increased from $3.9 billion in November 2012 to nearly $6.8 billion in September 2020.