Space Force eyes smaller, cheaper GPS satellites to augment constellation | Space

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Space Force is reviewing ideas from the private sector on how to augment the Global Positioning System constellation with smaller, lower-cost satellites.

The Space Force’s procurement arm, the Space Systems Command, last month issued a request for information probing the capabilities of the private sector to design a a more affordable GPS spacecraft that is also interoperable with existing GPS infrastructure.

A network of 31 GPS satellites 12,000 miles above Earth broadcast positioning, navigation and timing signals.

The military’s current GPS spacecraft are built by Lockheed Martin. The company last year delivered the 10th and final of the GPS III model produced under a 2008 contract.

Lockheed Martin is now making a more advanced version of the GPS III, called GPS IIIF. The Air Force in 2018 awarded Lockheed Martin a contract worth $7.2 billion for up to 22 GPS IIIF satellites. Ten have been ordered so far.

No changes in the current program

The Space Systems Command said Feb. 29 in a statement to SpaceNews that the GPS IIIF program remains unchanged and the recent RFI is intended to “inform future requirements.”

Companies were asked to submit concepts for a demonstration of smaller and cheaper GPS satellites that would “inform future planning for the GPS enterprise,” SSC said. “There is no formal follow-on to the GPS IIIF program at this time.”

The request for information and market research follow recent guidance by the Space Force’s top buyer Frank Calvelli who has urged military procurement program managers to use smaller satellites and harness commercial space products for national security needs. 

The Space Systems Command asked for “capability statements from potential sources for development, integration, and delivery for launch of a rapidly prototyped Global Positioning System navigation satellite with an objective to significantly reduce size, weight, power, and cost,…

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