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Boeing: Payload Flexibility Key For GPS Block III Satellites

By | February 26, 2007

      By Michael Sirak

      The ability to design a satellite payload that can easily accommodate upgrades, including on-orbit reprogramming, is one of the most important aspects of the Air Force’s Global Positioning System (GPS) Block III navigation and timing spacecraft program, a senior official from The Boeing Co. [BA] space sector said yesterday.

      “We believe the key to the future of GPS III is to have a payload that has the flexibility and adaptability to upgrade to the objective system,” Craig Cooning, vice president and deputy general manager of Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems, told reporters during a meeting in Washington, D.C.

      Boeing is one of two teams that is expected to compete later this year for the rights to build the GPS Block III satellites for the Air Force. Already the company is working under a $50 million follow-on contract from the service to reduce the developmental risk to the new system.

      Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] leads the other team that is working under Air Force sponsorship on GPS Block III risk mitigation activities.

      Cooning said Boeing believes that such a design tack will allow the Air Force to field the GPS Block III satellites most quickly and affordably, and then to incrementally add capability to the constellation, including some changes via software updates once the spacecraft are on orbit.

      “The reason for that is you don’t have the huge nonrecurring engineering spikes every time you have to do a block upgrade,” he said.

      And the company hopes that the service will factor this approach heavily in the forthcoming competition, he said.

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