An Air Force program meant to demonstrate new precision navigation and timing satellite technologies has passed its preliminary design review (PDR), industry partner L3Harris Technologies [LHX] said Feb. 5.

The Navigation Technology Satellite-3 (NTS-3) program passed PDR just over one year after Harris Corp. won an $84 million contract to be the prime integrator for NTS-3 in December 2018. L3 Technologies and Harris merged in July 2019.

“We have moved from contract award to finishing an early design review in under one year, which is an amazing accomplishment for a satellite development program that normally takes twice that amount of time,” said Ed Zoiss, president, Space and Airborne Systems at L3Harris in a Tuesday release. “We have proven we can move quickly to support the Air Force’s go-fast mission requirements.”

The NTS-3 team, comprised of L3Harris, AFRL, Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and the U.S. Space Force, is using experimental phased-array antennas, flexible and secure signals, increased automation and commercial command and control (C2) assets to hone technologies that can benefit the GPS constellation, and eventually be transitioned to the GPS III Follow-On program in development by Lockheed Martin [LMT].

NTS-3 is one of the Air Force’s three self-identified vanguard programs, where the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) seeks to quickly demonstrate emerging capabilities that can solve some of the service’s most urgent technology needs (Defense Daily, Nov. 21, 2019).

While NTS-3 seeks to demonstrate new PNT technologies that can complement current GPS constellations, the other two vanguard programs are Golden Horde – meant to investigate swarming technologies for precision-guided munitions – and Skyborg, an experiment to develop an artificial-intelligence-driven wingman unmanned aerial system to help operators penetrate austere environments.

The contract was awarded using Other Transaction Authorities, and the timeline from Harris presenting its first white paper to contract award was around six months, he said.

The Space Enterprise Consortium (SPeC) assisted with the contract programmatics, but it was awarded by AFRL and SMC in December 2018 under a full and open competition, industry officials told Defense Daily in April 2019 (Defense Daily, April 8, 2019). SPeC is a group of small and large organizations representing traditional and non-traditional defense contractors initiated by SMC to assist with research, development, test and evaluation efforts within prototyping projects for DoD space missions.