Boeing, Lockheed to study next-gen GPS

The Air Force has chosen two contractors that designed the current Global

Positioning System constellation of satellites to study options for the

next generation of GPS.

Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Space Systems each were awarded $16 million

fixed-price contracts for the 12-month System Architecture and Requirements

Definition study, according to a statement Thursday from the GPS Joint Program

Office at Los Angeles Air Force Base.

The results will be used to define the performance baseline for the

Program Definition and Risk Reduction phase of the GPS III modernization,

which will begin with a separate competition in fall 2001 and an award in

early 2002. After that phase, a single contractor will be chosen for the

engineering and design of GPS III.

GPS satellites broadcast signals that are used to determine accurate

position, location and time on the ground, in the air or in space. The constellation

broadcasts a coded signal for military use. It also broadcasts a civil signal

that was intentionally degraded until May 1, when President Clinton announced

that the military had proven the capability to selectively block use of

GPS by adversaries in areas of conflict.

A modernization program is adding satellites that will include an additional

military signal as well as two new civil signals that will increase the

accuracy and redundancy of the system.

The GPS III architecture studies will incorporate users' requirements

through 2030. The studies will provide architectural alternatives to the

current system, which depends on at least 24 operating satellites in a medium-Earth

orbit. The studies also will look at ways to consolidate ground infrastructure

to reduce total ownership costs and provide flexibility for future enhancements.

Boeing, formerly Rockwell, built the GPS Block II satellites that still

make up most of the 27-satellite system. Lockheed built the Block 2R satellites

that are being launched to replace aging GPS satellites and to add a second

GPS signal for civilian users of the system. Boeing also is designing a

small number of Block IIF satellites that will include the second civil

signal, an additional military signal and a third civil signal designed

for use in safety-critical applications such as aircraft landing.

The GPS III satellites are slated for deployment in 2009, the Air Force

statement said.

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