[Satellite News 02-10-11] In February 2010, the U.S. Air Force entrusted Raytheon with the evolution of its GPS infrastructure by awarding the company with an $886 million to improve the accuracy of information from its satellites. Under the direction of Raytheon GPS OCX Program Manager Bob Canty, the company is developing the first two blocks of the systems’ advanced control segment, which will include anti-jam capabilities and improved security, accuracy and reliability and will be based on a modern service-oriented architecture to integrate government and industry open-system standards. Canty spoke with Satellite News on how this program represents the future of military optimization, especially at a time when government and military budgets are being trimmed and focus is being shifted to maximizing its available assets.
Satellite News: How has GPS become the center of the U.S. military’s optimization effort?
Canty: The bottom line from a GPS perspective is that being able to provide more information through GPS makes other military systems much more effective in their use. If you optimize GPS, you optimize the military both in the present and future. If you look at Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) missions, you will see that the main reasons those missions are sometimes aborted is because they lose a lock on the GPS signal, the com-link, or both. UAV operators know that there are places on the globe that don’t get GPS signal depending on the time of day. GPS is basically a line-of-sight system – if you can’t see four satellites, you can’t lock on the GPS signal. So, one of the capabilities that GPS OCX system provides to people like UAV mission commander and special operations personnel operating in places like Afghanistan is the ability know what times of day they are going to lose GPS so that they can ingest that into their planning system. This increases the utilization of their systems. Having that predictive information can help them plan their missions and operations. In my opinion, this is what U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates mentioned as a key element to cutting operational costs. The technology is there and has been evolving so rapidly and has become so critical to execution that specialized abilities like GPS OCX were needed. There are similar correlations for civil service and commercial users as well.
Satellite News: U.S. government and military agencies also have made efforts to optimize the way they acquire technology. Is the GPS OCX program part of these efforts?
Canty: What’s interesting about GPS OCX is that it represents a transformation in the way our government is acquiring systems going forward. All of these military space technology contracts used to be lumped under the space segment contract itself. GPS OCX’s space segment was split from the control segment for very particular reasons. One of those reasons was because of the system’s ability to deliver asynchronous capability from the spacecraft. If you only launch one GPS satellite, you don’t get any additional capability. In some cases, government users need up to eight vehicles before they can bring up new capabilities to the system. The other reason was that on the control segment side, we could deliver incremental capability on an annual basis and be able to upgrade the system on an incremental basis. In essence, Raytheon’s GPS OCX program is moving toward a situational awareness and net-centric approach, and is really starting to put a framework in place for providing a service versus a signal.