U.S. Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) at Los Angeles AFB, Calif. expects the qualification of a new software baseline for the future command and control (C2) system for GPS satellites to come this fall.

That C2 system is the $6.7 billion Raytheon Technologies [RTX] Global Positioning System Next Generation Operational Control System (GPS OCX).

SMC said that OCX will not be operational until the third quarter of fiscal 2023 (Defense Daily, June 14).

On June 17, SMC launched the fifth Lockheed Martin [LMT] GPS III Space Vehicle (SV05) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. The satellite is the 24th M-Code GPS satellite since the first such bird, a GPS IIR-M, went into orbit in September, 2005. Such satellites are to provide improved positioning, navigation and timing and to have better protection against jamming and spoofing.

“Following the operational acceptance of the M-Code Early Use (MCEU) Control System hardware and software upgrade to the current Operational Control Segment (OCS) Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) in November 2020, M-Code signals are currently available on all 23 GPS Block IIR-M, IIF and III space vehicles,” SMC wrote in a June 17 email before the SV05 launch.  “The U.S. Space Force is on track to add GPS III SV05 to the M-Code capable constellation pending successful launch and checkout this summer, bringing the total up to 24 M-Code capable space vehicles for 24/7 coverage of this important military enhancement.  The MCEU upgrade to the current OCS ground system will also enable U.S. Space Force to make an M-Code Early Use Declaration later this year.”

Last month, a Government Accountability Office report, Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges and Opportunities with Acquiring Space Systems in a Changing Environment, noted some progress by DoD in solving multi-billion dollar cost overruns and significant delays in the fielding of space systems, but also pointed out continuing challenges, such as those with GPS OCX (Defense Daily, May 24). Costs on GPS OCX increased by 73 percent, and its schedule is delayed nearly 5 years, GAO said.

“Delays in the delivery of the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System and GPS user terminals means that jam-resistant signal capabilities of GPS satellites launched over 15 years ago still cannot be fully used for military operations,” per the GAO report.

But SMC noted some progress made, including the completion of development and formal Program Executive Officer certification for military GPS user equipment (MGUE) Increment 1 for two lead platforms–the U.S. Marine Corps/U.S. Army Joint Light Tactical Vehicle by Oshkosh Defense [OSK] and the U.S. Army Stryker combat vehicle by General Dynamics [GD]–to move forward with service field user evaluations this year.

“In addition, the Defense Logistics Agency has contracted with Global Foundries to produce almost a million Digital Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (Digital ASICs) for MGUE Increment 1, enabling the services to begin volume Increment 1 purchases,” SMC said on June 17.

On March 26 last year, SMC said that it told Raytheon to replace GPS OCX’s IBM [IBM] computer hardware before the delivery of OCX due to the sale of IBM’s computer product line to Lenovo, owned by China. SMC 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 17 external monitoring stations for GPS and four GPS ground antenna sites, SMC said.

On March 26 last year, SMC said that “in less than a year” Raytheon was to deliver a “qualified software baseline capable of operating the GPS constellation.”

COVID-19 has apparently delayed that delivery.

“Although there have been a few impacts to the OCX schedule due to mandatory quarantines, international border closures and factory inefficiencies, OCX is executing within all APB [acquisition program baseline] parameters and on track for delivery prior to the APB Schedule Threshold date of April 2023,” SMC wrote in an email on June 17.

“The ‘new software baseline for the GPS constellation’ is being qualified in parallel with the Hewlett-Packard (HP) refresh,” per SMC. “Today, OCX Block 1 and 2 software is able to generate sound navigation uploads for all four GPS vehicle classes. However, given the software baseline qualification event is taking longer due to COVID-19 impacts and other delays, resources were prioritized to work on HP activities which is the critical path. Raytheon is projected to deliver the software baseline in the fall.”

“COVID-19 impacts consist of inefficiencies stemming from site closures and mandatory Restrictions of Movement related to equipment installation for the 17 worldwide Monitor Stations (MS); and factory/classified laboratory impacts related to social distancing and staff disruptions due to COVID-19 cases.” SMC said.

On March 26 last year, Lt. Col. Thomas Gabriele, SMC’s OCX materiel leader, said in a statement that the OCX pilot project “gave us confidence that we had a viable OCX technical solution providing a long term sustainable hardware baseline that meets our stringent cyber security requirements” and “addressing the unsupportable IBM cyber security risk is prudent to do pre-system delivery to the government.”

“Although this government-directed change will impact the Raytheon schedule, the government is holding Raytheon accountable to deliver qualified software prior to integrating on the HPE platform and deploying to operational sites,” per Gabriele.

The GPS constellation, “to include GPS III SV05 (post launch and checkout), are operated by the current Operational Control Segment (OCS) Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP),” SMC said on June 17. “In the future when OCX is delivered, the constellation will be on the HPE hardware baseline.  The operational constellation will never fly on IBM.”