Raytheon’s Canty: GPS OCX Program Transforming How Military Acquires Systems
[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.
Satellite News: Could you explain the concept of providing a service versus a signal and how that represents a change in direction for your military customers?
Canty: Right now, the current GPS control segment is operating, to a large degree, by simply providing a signal from space. OCX is setting the foundation for providing a service instead of a signal. I’ll use DirecTV’s operations as an analogy to explain why, as I came from that arena.
If the operations center of DirecTV broadcasted out signals everyday, they would call it a good day. There were times when the operations center was sending out people because customers were not getting service, even though it was the service center’s responsibility and not the operation center’s problem. After a while, DirecTV discovered that there was a high correlation between weather and service outages. At some point in time, there was an epiphany that the service center and the operation center of the business had to be combined together. The situational awareness of what was happening with weather and how we dealt with that problem in the operations center became important. After all, if you weren’t providing service, you weren’t getting paid.
To some degree, GPS is going through that same transformation. Today, the biggest measure that GPS operation center personnel talk about is the worldwide, 24-hour accuracy of the system. So, if they are constantly making sure that the users of the system are actually getting GPS, they are transforming into a service provider.
If users are not getting service, then operations centers need to provide a help-desk function to understand what the problem is and resolve the problem – just like any other service provider.
Satellite News: What specifically constitutes Block 1 and Block 2 of the GPS OCX system?
Canty: Blocks 1 and 2 together essentially set the foundation for the future in the military’s GPS capability for the program. Block 1 provides a similar capability to the current control segment. It flies the GPS-2A, -2R, -2RM, -2F and -3A satellites and brings on a new civil signal from the GPS-LC and -L2C satellite, while providing other types of functionality. When we were bidding on the GPS OCX contract, the military made it clear that it was crucial to deliver Block 1 on time and in a very low-risk manner. It was also essential to deliver a flexible architecture that could deal with meeting the government’s near-term schedule and evolve very quickly with new functionality and automation.
Block 2 brings on the remaining part of the civil signal from the GPS-L5 and -L1C satellites. That also brings up the military code capability and brings on navigation functionality.
Satellite News: How will the GPS OCX system help evolve the GPS architecture?
Canty: The architecture of this system has already evolved itself. The earliest GPS OCX concepts were to move to this net-centric construct and provide a very robust information assurance (IA) framework. The latter is important not only to deal with the IA issues users face today, but also to be able to naturally evolve and deal with emerging IA issues as they move forward.
Another crucial part of this architecture is signal integrity. There are a lot of users out there that want to make sure that the signal they are getting is good. We’re building integrity into the system to provide an alert if the integrity of the signal is bad so we can notify users to avoid that signal.
Satellite News: What role does the GPS Collaboration Center you are opening in California play in the GPS OCX development?
Canty: The new collaboration facility in El Segundo is about two blocks away from our directorate’s operations center. It provides a facility close to the customers. We’ll use the facility to explore new capabilities that we would want to introduce into the overall enterprise, as well as to model, simulate and demonstrate new functionality and capability moving forward.
One of the things that we’re focusing on for the facility is the fact that, as we progress forward on this program, it is becoming more apparent that the system integration required between all of the elements really comes together when you’re trying to transition all of this capability into operations itself. To a large degree, we drive when certain capability comes into ops and we want to make sure that we’re dealing with the system integration issues and maintaining a presence that close to all the major players.
Satellite News: What is the program development schedule for the rest of the year?
Canty: Right now, we’re undergoing a series of reviews. We started the GPS OCX contract in February. We completed our integrated base-line review, which essentially sets up the way that we’re going to measure our performance from a financial schedule standpoint on the program. We also completed our software specification review, which says that we understand all the requirements we need to develop on the software side. I just completed the hardware preliminary design review, which represents all the hardware we need to go dip over to the different sites. At the same time, we’re completing the software development iteration 1.2, which will be finished in March.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll begin our software iteration 1.3, which will conclude in October. We will have our hardware critical design review in the June or July time period so we can start to deploy that hardware out to the sites. My team is approaching our preliminary design review, which will happen by the end of our second quarter this year. That’s pretty much our schedule up to December.