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News > GPS wing Q&A; related to recent GAO report on GPS
Media Advisory: GPS wing Q&A; related to recent GAO report on GPS

Posted 9/24/2010   Updated 9/24/2010 Email story   Print story


Release Number: 120910

9/24/2010 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Global Positioning System experts from Air Force Space Command and the Space and Missile Systems Center held a media roundtable teleconference Sept. 24 to discuss the recent GAO report titled "Global Positioning System: Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Capabilities Persist."

Below are written GPS Wing Questions and Answers related to the GAO Report "Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Capabilities Persist" provided by the GPS wing after the media teleconference.


Q: If there are any on orbit problems with SVN-62 (IIF-1) or delays to future IIF launches, how is the GPSW addressing the resulting constellation schedule and sustainment risks? (Ref Report Pages 10-11)

A: The GPS constellation is the healthiest and strongest it has ever been with 31 operational satellites - well above the required 24. IIF SV-1 (SVN-62) completed on-orbit testing and checkout as scheduled, and was set operational on 26 Aug as planned. From a constellation perspective, there is no compelling need for us to launch the next IIF satellite prior to fiscal year 2012. However, GPSW continues processing IIF SV-2 and we are following a plan to launch by summer 2011.


Q: The GAO states that any delay to the production and launch of the first GPS IIIA will reduce the constellation below the 24-satellite requirement. Similarly, the GAO calls the GPS IIIA program schedule "ambitious." What is the GPSW position on the GPS IIIA program schedule and the impacts to any launch delays of the satellites to constellation sustainment? (Ref: Report page 9, 16)

A: First, GPS IIIA successfully completed a series of Critical Design Reviews, culminating with the spacecraft CDR last month, 2 months ahead of schedule. While it is far too early to declare victory, we are optimistic that our "back to basics" approach and emphasis on sound systems engineering practices will alleviate many of the problems we faced with the IIF program. Further, given the most recent GAP runs by Aerospace and Air Force Space Command, we believe we have considerable margin before we absolutely MUST launch the first GPS IIIA satellite. While we are in no way leaning on that margin to complete our program, our forecasts are not quite as pessimistic as those of the GAO. Bottom Line: Our plan is to maintain that margin and to launch GPS IIIA SV-1 as scheduled we can check it out and fully understand its capabilities to help inform future acquisition and engineering decisions.


Q: The GAO noted a disconnect in the first GPS IIIA launch and the delivery/fielding of OCX to support that launch - currently, a 2-year gap. How is the GPS Wing addressing that disconnect?

A: The GPSW will have a GPS IIIA launch and checkout capability prior to the OCX program becoming fully operational at the Master Control Station. Collaborative efforts between the GPS III and OCX programs and their industry partners will enable the launch and checkout capabilities of OCX to be available in time to support the scheduled launch date for the first GPS IIIA satellite.


Q: The GAO is concerned with the synchronization of all 3 GPS segments - specifically, they highlight the ability (or lack thereof) of the military user to take advantage of the M-code signal. Further, the GAO states that the warfighter will not be able to take full advantage of the new signal until 2025 ("when the modernized user equipment is completely fielded"). How does the MGUE program (and subsequent CGM development) address the fragmentation of GPS integration across the DoD? (Ref report page 27-28)

A: The GPS Wing is actively pursuing approval of the acquisition strategy for the MGUE program; currently, we have PEO approval and we're pressing for Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) approval at the upcoming November Annual GPS Enterprise Review. This incremental strategy outlines a plan to put M-code capable receivers in the field right around the time we have 18 M-code capable satellites on orbit and a next-generation operational control system fielded to provide Initial Operational Capability (IOC), well before 2025. While the GPS Wing alone cannot force integration across the services, it is our goal to make the M-code capable receivers available for integration and educate the users on the benefits of doing so. Given the 100's of thousands of military GPS users, the estimate of when we complete fielding of MGUE is difficult to predict. Fielding isn't just driven by the availability of user equipments, it is also driven by service findings, platform program schedules and operational availability of units for integration. With current schedules, some units will have M-Code capability by the fall of 2015.

GPSW ENTERPRISE (Miscellaneous):

Q: The GAO highlights a need for the DoD and DoT to develop more comprehensive guidance for the GPS interagency requirements process. What is the plan to address the lack of comprehensive guidance on the GPS interagency requirements process?

Q: The interagency requirements process relies on individual agencies to identify their own requirements rather than identifying PNT requirements as a whole. Is there a plan to address this issue?

A (for both Qs): This topic is well beyond the authority of the GPS Wing; however, I am confident in the working relationship between these 2 departments and our requirements process to address the GAO's concerns.

AFSPC RESPONSE: The GPS community does have an interagency requirements process, the Interagency Forum for Operational Requirements (IFOR). As with any process, there is room for improvement. The IFOR process is no exception. The IFOR process has only fully vetted one secondary payload requirement, the Distress Alerting Satellite System (DASS), and is about 75% through the process on another secondary payload, the Satellite Laser Retroreflectors.
  • With those statistics in mind (i.e., a sample size of 2), the GAO is correct in stating the process remains relatively untested
  • Because it is relatively untested, we still have a lot to learn. On the other hand, we have already taken action to improve the process based on this limited experience
  • Based on feedback from the civil agencies who have gone through the process, we have better defined and documented the process in the IFOR charter, and are about to kick off a review of the larger and more detailed process documented in the Interagency Requirements Plan
  • Finally, it's worth noting that part of the challenge with making this process work is that both DoD and the civil agencies have to successfully cross the cultural boundary between DoD processes and terminology, and those of the civil agencies. When you're talking about GPS, a large number of agencies are involved, including Transportation, State, DHS, NASA, Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, and others. We have made great strides in this area through frequent interaction with these agencies, as well as capturing our lessons learned in the IFOR charter, and in how we conduct IFOR business.
Q: How is the US ensuring interoperability and compatibility with other (potentially) competing global space based PNT systems?

A: The Air Force has already established a plan to field the L1C Galileo-compatible signal on our GPS III program. Further, the AF is actively engaged in bilateral and multilateral discussions with the other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) providers to ensure compatible and interoperable signals. The bilateral discussions take place according to the guidelines of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the multilateral discussions are conducted under the auspices of the United Nations International Committee on GNSS (ICG).

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