Satellite navigations get $570M in support

The General Services Administration recently launched a $570 million program to provide support services to the Federal Aviation Administration, the Defense Department and other agencies interested in developing satellite-based navigation projects.

GSA's Federal Systems Integration and Management (Fedsim) program office selected Harris Corp., PRC Inc., Raytheon Service Company and Wilcox Electric Inc. to compete for task orders for up to seven years under the Global Positioning System Support Services program.

Fedsim created the contract so agencies that are interested in exploring GPS augmentation projects would not have to invest the time and money needed to launch their own program, said Keith Sandridge, director of the Fedsim contracting center.

"GPS usage is expanding, and this is an opportunity for us to create a contract vehicle to be used by numerous federal agencies as they decide to take advantage of the field," Sandridge said.

Under the new program, Fedsim will be able to provide the FAA with a 60- to 90-day turnaround on task orders.

Although the program scope does not include hardware for actually building systems, the FAA and other agencies can use the vehicle to conduct studies, build proof-of-concept projects and provide acquisition and technical support for GPS augmentation.

In fact, outside of providing hardware, "you can do almost anything under this contract," said Bob Coulson, Harris' program manager for the Fedsim project.

In the early going, the FAA is expected to be the primary customer, according to industry sources. The FAA worked very closely with Fedsim to draw up the statement of work, program specifications and evaluation criteria.

WAAS vs. LAAS

The FAA last year began developing the Wide-Area Augmentation System, which will provide accurate and reliable GPS signals through a combination of satellites and a nationwide network of ground-based augmentation systems. WAAS is being developed under a contract with Hughes Data Systems.

However, the FAA and aviation industry representatives believe Local-Area Augmentation Systems will be necessary to take advantage of GPS technology. LAAS will augment the GPS signal for specific regions—such as an airport—providing accurate enough positioning information for use in very low-visibility landings and for surface traffic management.

The FAA is expected to use this contract to validate LAAS concepts and to begin development of program specifications and acquisition, sources said. The FAA, dealing with the recent ValuJet airline crash, was not available for comment.

Several of the prime contractors have already worked with the FAA to develop future capabilities based on GPS. Wilcox last year completed an FAA project to validate the viability of GPS for low-visibility landings. Wilcox expects to leverage that experience on future projects.

"Architectural validation is really a critical next step to help lead the industry toward standardization of signal in space and a standard design specification that both the ground suppliers and avionics manufacturers could use as a basis for their own independent research and development," said Wayne Dohlman, director of advanced systems at Wilcox, Kansas City, Mo.

Wilcox also was the original prime contractor on WAAS, but it lost the contract because of management problems.

Harris Corp.—with a team that includes Lockheed Martin Corp., Trimble Navigation, Honeywell and United Airlines—has done extensive work on its own initiative in GPS, working with flight schools at the Florida Institute of Technology and with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Harris runs a GPS testbed in Melbourne, Fla. Working with the flight schools, Harris developed an Automatic Dependent Surveillance system for an aviation program in the Figi Islands, Coulson said.

The Fedsim contract represents the first major integration contract in aviation for PRC, a subsidiary of Litton Industries Inc. Its 10 teammates—including E-Systems, Rockwell and CTA—all have experience as FAA suppliers, said Keith Reynolds, PRC's account manager for transportation programs. PRC also will work with American Airlines and the United Parcel Service for operational testing, Reynolds said.

Raytheon declined to comment on the new contract.

Although the FAA may be the primary customer out of the gate, Fedsim does expect other agencies to take advantage of this new vehicle.

"Our hope is this will be a popular service," Sandridge said. "There have been some other agencies that have called and inquired [about the program], and some of the contractors have said they had some inquiries about this."

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