SSC orders three more GPS IIIF satellites

By Michael Marrow / November 29, 2022 at 10:06 AM

Space Systems Command has exercised the third production option for Global Positioning System IIIF satellites built by Lockheed Martin, the command said in a Nov. 28 press release, an order that covers space vehicles 18, 19 and 20 for an estimated value of $744 million.

The GPS IIIF satellites will replenish legacy systems and add greater anti-jam protection, improved search-and-rescue capabilities, enhanced triangulation of a user’s location and better nuclear detonation detection. SSC’s original $7.2 billion contract inked in 2018 includes options for up to 22 IIIF satellites, the first of which is scheduled to lift off in 2026.

The 2018 agreement added the IIIF space vehicles on top of orders for GPS III satellites. Lockheed at the time was already on contract for 10 GPS III satellites, and the IIIF award added options for up to 22 IIIF space vehicles for a total of 32 III-series satellites.

Under the current contract, up to 10 more IIIF satellites could still be ordered.

Launch of the IIIF satellites will depend on fielding the constellation’s ground system first. The current GPS ground system is being overhauled by Raytheon, which is replacing it with the Next Generation Operational Control System, or OCX.

OCX, already six years behind schedule, recently suffered another schedule slip, Inside Defense reported in September. OCX is now expected to be delivered in December, potentially shaving off all remaining schedule margin before an April 2023 deadline for initial operational capability.

An OCX follow-on segment, called Block 3F, is needed to operate the IIIF satellites and is planned to be delivered by Raytheon in 2025. However, the Government Accountability Office warned in its June weapon systems assessment that OCX delays could imperil the Block 3F schedule, “with potential corresponding effects to the GPS IIIF program.”