Tag Archives: GPS

Space experts support sharing military satellite data

 

Air Force Space Command leaders are working on plans to share data from satellites controlled by the military, bringing new opportunities that could allow firefighters to get images on their smartphones to help stamp out wildfires, and allow nonmilitary organizations to keep a better eye on the weather.

The civilian world is working on how infrared pictures could be used, with Colorado Springs software firm Braxton Technologies leading the pack.

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Expecting Twins: A How-To Guide to Dual Launch

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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Recently released views of the next two Galileo satellites in the European Space Agency’s testing lab, along with dual-launch rumblings from the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin, occasion this story about two birds with one drone. That is, an unmanned autonomous vehicle bound for the exosphere. The rest of the GNSS world is on board with this topic; isn’t it about time GPS caught up?

The first two Galileo Full Operational Capability (FOC) satellites will launch as a pair, earlier advertised as a September blast, now possibly delayed until December; a second dynamic duo will follow sometime thereafter. Then two again, and two, and two, until the Ariane 5 rocket launches four at once. Four!

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Air Force Video Explains GPS Role in Daily Life

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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All of us in the GPS industry know someone who only thinks of GPS as a feature of their smartphone. You might direct them to a new YouTube video presented by the U.S. Air Force, which summarizes the worldwide role of GPS. It also touches on the GPS modernization program and new signals.

The seven-minute video explains in simple terms how important GPS has become to everyday life — for aircraft and ship navigation, global financial transactions, precision agriculture, weather forecasting, disaster relief, and, of course, smartphones.

GPS Mission Operations – Why It Matters

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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The current GPS operational control segment (OCS) program implements a traditional support model with Level 1 support providing basic day-to-day administration of the ground system and routinely handles rudimentary troubleshooting of basic system problems. Level 2 troubleshooting issues, however, frequently deal with advanced operational configurations, system capabilities, and possible product bugs or even failures.

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GPS & the Waldo Canyon Fire

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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Tuesday, the 26th of June, started off as a beautiful day in Colorado Springs, if you ignored the towering plume of smoke to the west from the Waldo Canyon Wildfire.

The wildfire started three days before in the popular Waldo Canyon hiking area in the Rocky Mountains just off Highway 24. While people in the Colorado Springs area were concerned, there were currently eight other wildfires raging in the state of Colorado and over the past month arsonist(s) were suspected of starting up to 20+ wildfires. So, many had become inured to the sight and smell of smoke. Only one serious wildfire was known to be currently out of control in Colorado at the time, so concerns in the Colorado Springs community could be described as moderate.

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2 SOPS Has GPS Well in Hand

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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GPS WORLD

December is typically the month when writers of regularly featured columns wax nostalgic and engage in a certain amount of prognostication. This year I enlisted the help of Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, the 2SOPS/CC at Schriever AFB, the home of GPS, to help us with our year-end review and crystal-ball gazing as we look ahead to the GPS horizon. Lt. Col. Grant reminisces about her first 16 months as 2SOPS/CC, reviews numerous major accomplishments, and updates us on the status of the GPS constellation as well as the often overlooked, ever contentious and always seemingly in flux critical Command and Control (C2) segment.

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Next Step in GPS Success Story

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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The Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) team developing the U.S. Air Force’s next generation Global Positioning System has delivered the program’s pathfinder spacecraft to the company’s Denver -area facility. The pathfinder, known as the GPS III Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST), will now undergo final assembly, integration and test activities in a new facility designed to maximize efficiencies and reduce costs of satellite production.

The GPS III program will affordably replace aging GPS satellites while improving capability to meet the evolving needs of military, commercial and civilian users worldwide. GPS III satellites will deliver better accuracy and improved anti-jamming power while enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.

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GPS Expandable 24 in Action

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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The GPS 2A-22 spacecraft had been removed from active duty two years ago to accommodate the deployment of a fresh bird into the constellation. Now, the Boeing-built satellite is back in action to transmit the timing and location signals to users around the world.

Launched in August 1993 atop a Delta 2 rocket from Cape Canaveral, the satellite has long surpassed its 7-year design life. But with some use still left to give, the 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schreiver Air Force Base in Colorado have taken the rare step of reactivating it.

“My hat goes off to our operators, analysts, and contractor support personnel — their superior care and feeding of our constellation is the reason (2A-22) is still viable for operations 18 years after launch,” said Lt. Col. Dean Holthaus, 2 SOPS director of operations.

Officials said this was only the second time in GPS history that a decommissioned satellite has returned to active status.

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Newest GPS IIF Nav Sat Operational

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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MONDAY, AUGUST 22, 2011

The nation’s newest Global Positioning System satellite has completed its post-launch checkout and entered service in the orbiting constellation.

The Air Force’s GPS 2F-2 spacecraft was boosted into orbit July 16 from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket.

Controllers have spent the past month getting the Boeing-built satellite prepped to transmit precision navigation and timing information to users across the planet.

“This next-generation GPS 2F satellite has been set healthy and is ready to begin providing a strong, clear and secure signal,” said Air Force Col. Bernard Gruber, director of the GPS Directorate. “The Air Force and allied military forces around the world use GPS devices in virtually every system to improve their capabilities and effectiveness while reducing risk to the warfighter.”

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OCX Update

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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The next-generation GPS Ground Control system (OCX) under the direction of prime contractor Raytheon did not pass the recently concluded initial Preliminary Design Review (PDR).

Not passing this critical PDR inspection so early in the OCX process and in the current fiscal environment (Congress has already trimmed the modernization budget and shifted elements to the right) constitutes a blow to the GPS modernization effort. It adds to the worry concerning the OCX-GPSIIIA gap, having to do with the ability to launch the Lockheed-produced GPS IIIA SVs and payloads that are currently scheduled to be ready for launch a full 14-16 months before the OCX ground system was originally scheduled to be able to control the launch.

That timeline undoubtedly stretches to the right with this latest development.

GPS navigation satellite takes nighttime ride to orbit

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW

Posted: July 16, 2011

Continuing a prolific partnership that has benefited billions of users around the world, the Delta rocket family today successfully launched its 50th satellite for the Global Positioning System.


The Delta 4 rocket fires away from the Cape. Credit: Pat Corkery/ULA
See launch photo gallery

The powerful Delta 4 booster blasted away from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 37 at 2:41 a.m. EDT (0641 GMT) for a middle-of-the-night ascent precisely timed to deliver a critical replacement satellite directly into the GPS constellation.

It was the type of rocket flight that could appear routine. But replenishing the navigation network is vital to the military forces, civilian consumers and the blossoming commercial marketplace that have come to depend on GPS every day.

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GPS Constellation at 24 + 3

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colorado — The 50th Space Wing successfully completed a two phase Global Positioning System constellation expansion, known as “Expandable 24” or 24+3, on June 15. This expansion increased global GPS coverage and is now providing civil, military, and commercial GPS users with a more robust signal and a higher probability of signal acquisition in terrain challenged environments.

“This marks another successful milestone in our continued commitment to modernize our weapon system,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Grant, 2nd Space Operations Squadron commander. “We take great pride in providing GPS performance that exceeds our requirements for the system, which we have been doing since 1995.”

Expandable 24 is a U.S. Strategic Command commander directed initiative, executed by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, to reposition six satellites in the current GPS constellation. Given the strength and number of satellites in the current constellation, Air Force Space Command was in a unique position to enact this revolutionary strategy to benefit global users. AFSPC acted on this opportunity to increase the robustness of satellite availability and overall signal-in-space performance by expanding three of the baseline 24 constellation slots.

News from 27th NSS & Other Space/PNT Events

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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April, May, and June are watershed months for space and PNT geeks every year. In April I was honored to attend the National Space Foundation sponsored 27th annual National Space Symposium held at the incomparable five-star Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in May, just last week I attended the 10th annual GPS Partnership Council at SMC (Space and Missile Systems Center) in Los Angeles, California. Currently I am planning my strategy and greasing the chain on the mountain bike for the sixth annual Space and Cyberwarfare Symposium in the beautiful mountain village of Keystone, Colorado, which is followed later in June by the Joint Navigation Conference, also in Colorado Springs.

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GPS Operational Optimism

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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Boeing… GPS’ Operational Optimism… (Satellites)

[SatNews] Securing precise global navigation for private and military use, GPS IIF receives an increase in its operational status…

Boeing [NYSE: BA] has announced that its GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS) has gained full operational status with the U.S. Air Force 50th Space WingSchriever Air Force Base, Colo. OCS keeps the GPS system operational within specified accuracy to provide secure and precise navigation around the world for military, humanitarian and commercial applications.
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GPS Ground System Upgrades Accepted

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — Officials at the 50th Space Wing accepted two Global Positioning System ground system upgrades during a ceremony here April 14.

The ceremony signified a group effort between wing, Air Force Space Command and the Space and Missile Systems Center officials and their continued commitment to improve and maintain the current GPS Operational Control Segment leading up to the next generation ground segment set to be deployed in 2015.

GPSOC Situational Awareness Capability

  • By Braxton
  • Published December 19, 2014
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The GPS Operations Center announced that joint force warfighters on distant parts of the globe will soon be able to assess real-time and future GPS accuracy both where they are and where they’re going, thanks to a new capability developed by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron’s Global Positioning System User Operations team here. The new capability uses the Google Earth software application to display data supplied by the GPS Operations Center for warfighters on the ground in places like Afghanistan.

GPS Collaboration Center Opens

Raytheon_GPS_OCX

Raytheon… Construction Completed For Collaboration (MILSATCOM)

[SatNews] Raytheon Company’s (NYSE: RTN) new Global Positioning System Collaboration Center opening in February 2011 in El Segundo, Calif., will allow U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems personnel to interact with the GPS Operational Control Segment (GPS OCX) system in an operations-like environment.

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United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches 47th Air Force GPS Mission

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A United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket successfully launched the Air Force’s Global Positioning Satellite IIR-20(M) into orbit from Space Launch Complex 17A at 4:34 a.m., EDT. This was the 47th successful GPS launch for the Delta II in its storied 20-year history. The very first Delta II launch on Feb. 14, 1989 was the NAVSTAR II-1 launch. NAVSTAR is now commonly known as GPS.

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GPS IIF-4 Successfully Launched

  • By Braxton
  • Published May 21, 2013
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5/16/2013 – LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — A U.S. Air Force Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite built by Boeing was successfully launched May 15. The fourth GPS IIF satellite, Space Vehicle Number (SVN) 66, was carried aboard aUnited Launch Alliance Atlas V Launch Vehicle at 5:38 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The new capabilities of the IIF satellites will provide greater navigational accuracy through improvements in atomic clock technology; a more robust signal for commercial aviation and safety-of-life applications, known as the new third civil signal (L5); and a 12-year design life providing long-term service. These upgrades improved anti-jam capabilities for the warfighter and improved security for military and civil users around the world.

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LADO Contract Announcement

Braxton Technologies of Colorado Springs announces that it has signed a 5 year agreement with 309th Software Maintenance Group from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, which includes 1 base year and four option years to provide Launch and Early Orbit, Anomaly Resolution and Disposal Operations Telemetry, Tracking & Commanding and Simulation Software Sustainment Advisory and Assistance Services.

The awarded value of this effort is approximately three million dollars excluding all unexercised options. The total approximate value if all Options are exercised is 14.6 million dollars. This effort is a continuation of support Braxton has previously provided to the Air Force through several prime contractors since 2001. The primary tasks performed under this effort include support for new launch of the current GPS family of satellites, as well as anomaly resolution for the constellation in general and disposal operations for satellites that have reached the end of their useful life. Ken O’Neil, Braxton’s President and Chief Operating Officer, noted upon signing the agreement that “we are looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with our newest customer at the 309th, and we feel blessed to provide a service to our nation supporting billions of people worldwide each and every day.”

CPASC Contract Win

Braxton Technologies announced today that they have signed a 5 year, 4.5 million dollar subcontract with Kratos Defense & Security Solutions for work on the Consolidated (CCS-C) Sustainment and Production Contract (CPASC). The CPASC contract enables a unified Command and Control (C2) capability for the 50th Space Wing’s complete family of MILSATCOM satellite programs. By employing standards-based systems and an open architecture approach, the 50th Space Wing efficiently and cost-effectively supports legacy and emerging satellite platforms and programs. Braxton Technologies will provide simulation and human machine interface software sustainment services as well as reliability, maintainability and availability systems engineering and Technical Documentation Services. Ken O’Neil Braxton’s president and chief operation officer noted that “The CPASC Contract is an excellent addition to our portfolio as we now support the four major mission groups at Schriever Air Force Base including MILSATCOM, GPS, DMSP and the NRO. We are also looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship with our newest mission partners at Kratos Defense.” Braxton will add 5 new local jobs for the effort slated to begin 1 February.

LADO Ground Support for GPS IIA

  • By Braxton
  • Published May 3, 2012
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One of the long-standing issues for support of IIA vehicles after the future GPS Operational Ground Control Segment’s (OCX’s) ready-to-operate (RTO) date, which should fall in December 2016 at the latest, is what ground command-and-control (C2) system will steer GPS IIA satellites, do navigation uploads, and so on. The issue is that AEP, the current C2 system, will no longer be available once the transition to OCX takes place, and OCX has no requirement to control IIA satellites.

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Braxton Presents Ground System Advances at Boeing Conference

  • By Braxton
  • Published October 27, 2011
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BEVERLY HILLS, CA, 26 October 2011. Braxton CEO, Frank Backes, and Senior Technical Advisor, Dr. Triet Tran, presented an introduction to Braxton’s ACE Premier(TM) product line and an overview of Braxton’s newest mission planning tools at the Boeing Satellite Systems Owner Operator Conference. Mr. Backes and Dr. Tran then joined conference participants for ground system product demonstrations at the Braxton conference booth.

Braxton Called in from Bullpen for IIF Relief

  • By Braxton
  • Published August 9, 2010
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The Launch/Early Orbit, Anomaly Resolution, and Disposal Operations (LADO) system experts from Braxton Technologies were called in to contact the satellite and regain control, and subsequently turn the wayward IIF satellite back over to the AEP control segment.

IIF-1/SVN62 Arrives on Station

During the week of August 2, the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) software installed at the master control station at 50th Space Wing Space Operations Centers (SOC) temporarily lost contact with or command and control (C2) of the IIF satellite undergoing testing and initialization, during a Delta V maneuver. The Launch/Early Orbit, Anomaly Resolution, and Disposal Operations (LADO) system experts from Braxton Technologies were called in to contact the satellite and regain control, and subsequently turn the wayward IIF satellite back over to the AEP control segment.

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Braxton Front-End Processor KS-252 Interface Announced

  • By Braxton
  • Published April 30, 2010
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Braxton Technologies, LLC today announced the integration of its industry-leading ACE Premier™ command and control (C2) product suite Front End Processor (FEP) with AMERGINT Technologies, LLC softFEP™. This integration ensures seamless interface of the Braxton AceFEP and the latest Air Force Cryptologic Systems Group (CPSG) IP-based satellite ground station cryptographic device, the KS-252. The new KS-252 Ground Operating Equipment is slated for use on space vehicle and ground segment programs for which ACE Premier™ is well-positioned. The KS-252 crypto significantly reduces design complexity and cost for new and modernized command and control systems while maintaining data security and integrity.

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Braxton on Winning Raytheon GPS OCX Team

Braxton Technologies, LLC today confirmed it is part of the Raytheon Company-led team that has been awarded the U.S. Air Force contract for the Global Positioning System (GPS) advanced control segment (OCX), the new ground system for the critical GPS satellite constellation. This contract will continue the Raytheon Team’s initial achievements from the down-select contract, also known as Phase A, into full GPS OCX development, deployment and sustainment.

The OCX program will revolutionize GPS operations. The new control system will focus on transformational military and civil requirements worldwide, including advanced anti-jam capabilities, improved system security, expanded accuracy, and increased reliability. GPS OCX will fully support GPS III and legacy GPS satellites, and will be based on a modern service-oriented architecture that integrates government and industry open system standards.

In addition to the new contract, Braxton supplies the commercial command and control (C2) products that form the heart of the GPS Launch/Early Orbit, Anomaly Resolution and Disposal Operations (GPS LADO) system that has controlled the launches of all GPS satellites launched since October 2007.

Braxton GPS OCX Program Manager, Jeroen “Dutch” Heuzen, puts it all into perspective. “To Braxton, our customer’s mission always comes first,” he points out. “We have made this the primary focus of our GPS LADO work for almost a decade, and we relish the opportunity to bring the same focus and enthusiasm to the Raytheon GPS OCX Team and its U.S. Air Force customer.”

CEO, Frank Backes, agrees. “GPS has become the heartbeat of the planet, and Braxton commits to offering next-generation architectures and state-of-the-need products to continue GPS success. The confidence placed in us by Raytheon and the Air Force serves as a foundation for Braxton to continue our investment in command and control systems capable of meeting the extensive needs of our diverse customer base.”

Braxton is scheduled to begin GPS OCX work immediately at Raytheon’s Aurora, Colo. facility and supporting locations.

About Braxton Technologies

Braxton Technologies, LLC provides products and professional services for government and commercial missions. Braxton’s ACE Premier™ product suite includes tailorable applications, tools, and simulators that dramatically reduce risk and accelerate deployment of command and control systems. Braxton is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo.

U.S. Air Force Chooses Raytheon to Develop Next Generation GPS Control Segment

  • By Braxton
  • Published February 25, 2010
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The U.S. Air Force chose Raytheon to develop a new element of the Global Positioning System (GPS), called the Advanced Control Segment (OCX), which will improve the accuracy of information from GPS satellites. “Raytheon teammates include The Boeing Company, ITT, Braxton Technologies, Infinity Systems Engineering and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”

The U.S. Air Force chose Raytheon to develop a new element of the Global Positioning System (GPS), called the Advanced Control Segment (OCX), which will improve the accuracy of information from GPS satellites.

The U.S. Air Force selected Raytheon for a contract of $886 million to develop a new element of the Global Positioning System (GPS), called the Advanced Control Segment (OCX), to improve the accuracy of information from GPS satellites.

The new segment will include anti-jam capabilities and improved security, accuracy, and reliability. It will be based on a modern service-oriented architecture to integrate government and industry open-system standards.

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National Symposium Tops Hectic Month for GPS in Space

Braxton Technologies. These are the professionals that accomplish the LADO, or Launch, Anomaly Resolution and Disposal Operations for the GPS constellation, and they manned a booth with their latest software up and running on GPS command and control (C2) terminals at the symposium. But the fun part was that the terminals controlled a very visible and full-motion overhead model GPS satellite complete with operating solar panels that sought the sun, and a motor so you could see the results of the commands you sent to the satellite, especially the Delta V maneuvers.

National Symposium Tops Hectic Month for GPS in Space
Apr 7, 2009
By: Don Jewell

The last few weeks have been a very busy time in the space world, especially for GPS:

  • Numerous space symposia were held around the globe, with the largest event being the 25th Annual National Space Symposium (NSS) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, at the Broadmoor Resort.
  • There was an international event, the Munich Satellite Navigation Summit in Germany, which was well covered in GPS World.
  • The USAF finally launched the IIR(M)-20 GPS payload with the L5 signal transmitter onboard.
  • General Dynamics showcased a new handheld computer/GPS receiver that wowed attendees at the 25th NSS, and I review it for you this month.
  • The Lockheed Martin (LMCO) GPS IIIA program easily passed significant milestones and is on or ahead of schedule — I spoke with the IIIA Program Manager, Dr. Don DeGryse. Can you say happily moving to the left?
  • Rumors were rampant at the NSS that the Boeing IIF payload #1, already at the Cape, hit some significant technical snags. Can you say still moving to the right?
  • Last, and certainly least of all, the United States Army ordered $87 million worth of obsolete U.S.-government-supplied DAGR, GPS handheld receivers on a contract vehicle that could sadly total as much as $450 million.

If this sounds like a lot to cover, it is, but “time waits for no man,” especially someone with a tale to tell, so off we go:

25th National Space Symposium

The National Space Foundation did it again, another truly outstanding event that more than 8,000 people attended. I have personally attended 21 of the 25 NSS events and they just keep getting better every year. The forums and speakers were even better than last year, and there were more companies represented in the grand exposition halls — yes, there is more than one — and it takes nearly the entire four days of the symposium just to get around to them all, if you do them any justice. I will only mention a couple of notable companies and products this month and then cover more in future columns.

Braxton Technologies

These are the professionals that accomplish the LADO, or Launch, Anomaly Resolution and Disposal Operations for the GPS constellation, and they manned a booth with their latest software up and running on GPS command and control (C2) terminals at the symposium. But the fun part was that the terminals controlled a very visible and full-motion overhead model GPS satellite complete with operating solar panels that sought the sun, and a motor so you could see the results of the commands you sent to the satellite, especially the Delta V maneuvers.

  1. Braxton had two ground control stations available and it was an impressive display. There were long lines all week, with those waiting ranging from grade-school kids to U.S. Air Force senior officers. Who said being a space cadet doesn’t have its moments?

The exciting and real-world part of the week for Braxton Technology came on March 24, when the company controlled the launch of the latest IIR(M)-20 GPS payload into MEO (or Medium Earth Orbit). Due in large part to Braxton’s excellent software and deep knowledge base, the launch went off without a hitch, and the payload appears to be working as planned. Of course, my hat is also off to Lockheed Martin and the United Launch Alliance as well as the GPS Wing for a successful launch that was fraught with a myriad of things that could have easily gone wrong. The payload and space vehicle (SV) have been earth bound long beyond their intended launch date, and the Delta II booster previously developed some serious third-stage separation problems. But in the end, the professionals prevailed and all was successful. Everyone involved deserves our thanks.

On NAVSTAR #63 the L1, L2 signals are being broadcast and the newest L5 civilian signal will be broadcast to the world for the first time on April 10. Yours truly will be in attendance at the Stanford Research International (SRI) facility in Menlo Park, California, to witness the reception of the L5 signal by the 46-meter (150-foot) diameter radio reflector antenna that has become known around the world as “The Dish.” As many of you know, the GPS constellation must successfully broadcast the L5 signal from MEO by the end of October or lose the frequency allocation, and the SRI “Dish” will help verify that signal transmission, so let’s keep our fingers crossed for success on the 10th.

The other item of note for Braxton Technologies is that they are now flying more GPS IIA satellites in LADO residual status(sounds like a backward child and the analogy has some degree of correlation) than ever before. Normally these valiant and tired GPS satellites would have been declared “over the hill” and boosted to a higher non-functional parking orbit, and any future contributions to the GPS constellation would be lost. Due to the forward thinking of leaders such as Colonel David Madden (USAF), the GPS Wing/CC and company, plus the operators at the 2 SOPS (the 2nd Space Operations Squadron, which is part of the 50th Space Wing at Schriever AFB), plus the capabilities of the Braxton Technologies LADO system, these satellites can now be brought back online if the need ever presents itself, and it well may.

GPS Constellation and Signals Available

Never before has the GPS constellation been so robust and so vulnerable in the same breadth of time. There are 31 GPS satellites, and payloads that have been declared healthy and are transmitting 31 PRNs for users on a global basis; and yes, it could easily be 32 or 36 or more, but that is another story and another excellent reason for awarding the OCX contract and bringing OCX online as soon as possible.

The GPS constellation now has seven payloads broadcasting “M” code, which is a special military-only code, with eight satellites being the magic number for minimal government receiver usability. This means that with eight M-code satellites in the constellation, there is a high probability that one will always be in view of a military user. Not enough for an M-code-only solution, but certainly a help for our warfighter, since the long-awaited M-code signal will be more jam and spoof resistant than the standard civilian signals.

There is now a satellite in orbit with an L5 payload, the second civilian frequency. Civilians can now theoretically use L1, L2C (codeless or semi-codeless), and L5, when it is broadcast, while the military and government users can theoretically use L1, L2, and the M-code. I say theoretically because I have not been made aware of a mobile receiver that currently is able to receive and processes all these signals; but I am told that any day now… Well, don’t hold your breath, but one day soon I will write a column dedicated to the advantages of software-defined receivers.

Then there is the discussion of freely available CA (Coarse/Acquisition) and the restricted PY (Precision) codes which I do not have the time or space to go into here, plus some recent discussions concerning signal and frequency splitting. Suffice it to say the GPS constellation has never been blessed with such potential capability, but at the same time it is at a critical juncture in its development because the current technically challenged ground-control segment better known as the Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) has ceased evolving and will not allow users to take advantage of many on-orbit capabilities.

Many of the current on-orbit GPS satellites and payloads are long in the tooth and are labeled as being “single string” or close to failure, and we are now mightily dependent on the new and, hopefully, sometime soon-to-be-launched IIF GPS satellites from Boeing, but, as I’ve said many times, their future is far from certain. We should see a IIF launch by the end of 2009, but with the current rumored difficulties even that launch date is far from certain. And according to LMCO we probably won’t see a GPS IIIA satellite on orbit before 2014, which is the current schedule.

Indeed, the current ground segment control software, known as AEP, is best described as “a cul-de-sac” to quote a knowledgeable friend who should know, and the government is still trying to decide between two OCX or next-generation ground-control segment contractor teams led by Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. That decision should come no later than the August 2009 timeframe, and then we can finally get on with stabilizing and vastly improving the on-orbit GPS constellation.

The switch to OCX will be something the GPS user community will hopefully actually notice, unlike the AEP transition. Indeed, the AEP software is so benign it currently flies all GPS satellites as if they were designed 20 years ago and does not take advantage of many of the newer capabilities that exist on the LMCO IIR and IIR(M) payloads. So, without a doubt OCX is a must, and the sooner we see it the better for all users, especially our warfighters, who risk their lives daily and deserve nothing but our best.

GPS IIIA Program Status

This brings us to the next-generation GPS satellite program known as the GPS IIIA and my conversations with the LMCO GPS IIIA Program Manager, Dr. Donald G. (Don) DeGryse, who is also the vice president of navigation systems for Lockheed Martin. Don was gracious enough to give me a few minutes of his time during the NSS and then later during a fabulous dinner at the beautiful five-star Broadmoor Resort.

Dr. DeGryse was quick to say that the LMCO GPS IIIA program successfully passed an Integrated Baseline Review that validated the program’s technology, schedule, and cost baselines. The program will complete the 21st Space Segment PDR (Preliminary Design Review) on May 18. So far the total number of successful PDRs for the entire GPS IIIA program stands at 63 — on May 18 the program will have completed its 71st overall PDR. This is an impressive number of PDRs for any program. According to Don, “It aptly demonstrates Lockheed’s commitment to getting it right and to operational excellence.”

A couple of years ago, then undersecretary of the Air Force, the Honorable Dr. Ronald “Ron” Sega, a good friend who was also present at the NSS, wisely re-instituted a 1521B Military Standardization like process, better known to the world as the “back-to-basics approach.” According to Dr. DeGryse, LMCO has followed this process; hence the high number of PDRs and the laudable obsession with getting it right the first time.

Dr. DeGryse was also quick to give credit to the major subcontractors on the LMCO GPS IIIA team: General Dynamics in Scottsdale, Arizona, who has responsibility for the network subsystem, and ITT in Clifton, New Jersey, who builds the all-important payload subsystem.

When asked if LMCO was going to have an early delivery of the IIIA program. Dr. DeGryse reiterated that building in margin on high-technology programs is a must. While LMCO may be ahead of schedule currently, anything could happen, “a supplier glitch or a subcontractor failure, and the margin could disappear quickly.” So, according to Dr. DeGryse, LMCO is “simply building in margin while they can and…fully expect to deliver the first GPS IIIA SV and payload on schedule in 2014.”

While I always thought there were financial incentives built into the acquisition program to deliver the first few GPS IIIA SVs early, Don disabused me of that notion (evidently the incentives have been removed from the final version of the contract) and reiterated that the LMCO goal is to deliver a successful satellite and payload on schedule. He also reminded me that his agreement with Colonel David Madden at the GPS Wing is that “stable requirements and a stable budget equals success. There should be no new requirements for the GPS IIIA program.” This makes sense as the GPS III program’s overall procurement takes a three-tiered or block approach with a spiral development process incorporating more and more capabilities in each sequential segment, which are known as blocks IIIB and IIIC.

User Equipment

Now on to the warfighter’s desire for excellent user equipment. Alas, we are still in search of the elusive Perfect Handheld GPS Transceiver or PHGPST. Earlier in this column, I gave the U.S. Army a hard time, which they richly deserve, primarily for not listening to their warfighters, and certainly for procuring $87 million worth of DAGR GPS receivers that the soldiers may not even use. But just so you know this is not a knee-jerk reaction, I have done my homework.

In fact many of the Army personnel attending the NSS were quick to point out that although the DAGR is rarely used as a handheld GPS device by any soldiers, in actuality some of the new procurement DAGRs will replace older PLGRs and less-capable DAGR models. Many of the new DAGRs will be used primarily as embedded GPS devices where they work well, because the user does not have to interface with them. In the embedded mode, the DAGRs provide navigation, but mainly position, Blue Force Tracking (BFT), and timing information to other systems. As such the black-and-white screen, long time to first fix, and lack of useable maps — along with a less-than-friendly user interface — does not matter to the user, and so in this embedded mode they are acceptable, but there are certainly better alternatives.

The real sad part of this tale of woe is that the Army acquisition community and procurement agencies have apparently lost the bubble; they are not listening to their users, the warfighters, and subsequently it is the warfighters that are paying the price in more ways than one — as well as the American taxpayer, who is paying $1700 per unit for a handheld GPS device the warfighter doesn’t want and will likely never use as a stand-alone GPS device. Indeed, the warfighters are using Garmin units predominantly, but Magellan and Trimble units as well, and the government is also paying for many of those units. When they don’t, the warfighters purchase them on their own. The warfighters need, want, and deserve reliable 3G GPS equipment they can actually understand and interact with, as they do their 3G mobile phones, PDAs, and computers. Here’s a novel concept: Give the warfighters what they want and need and will use. This latest procurement reminds me of a quote by Laurence J. Peter,

“Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.”

Unfortunately, the DAGR lost any status in the relevant world of military GPS handheld equipment long ago, but I digress, and so unfortunately has the Army GPS acquisition program. But I have faith in the U.S. Army and I know they can recover. And for the Army, the recovery should start by listening to the warfighters, the boots on the ground.

But all is not lost. Fortunately Colonel David Madden and the professionals at the GPS Wing have been listening to the users. Rumor has it they have a bailout plan of their own. As soon as they give me the details I will let you know.

By the way, one of those devices the warfighter likes and uses is a GPS handheld computer from General Dynamics (Itronix) known as the MR-1 (above), which I review this month.

Until next time, happy navigating.

Braxton on ATC SASSA Team

  • By Braxton
  • Published March 24, 2009
  • Tagged ,

Braxton Technologies today announced its continuing partnership with Assurance Technology Corporation (ATC) in developing the Self-Awareness Space Situation Awareness (SASSA) Demonstration System. The two-year, $28 million SASSA project is administered by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif.

SASSA will demonstrate sensing, detection, assessment and notification of attribute interference to and attacks on space assets. “Braxton is committed to ATC and SMC success on the SASSA program,” says Julie Willis, Braxton SASSA Program Manager. “We are delighted to partner with such capable, mission-focused teammates in demonstrating capabilities of such critical importance to the future of our nation.”

About Braxton Technologies

Braxton Technologies, LLC, delivers products and professional services for government and commercial applications. Global Positioning System (GPS) launch, early-orbit, operations, and disposal command and control functions are currently performed by Braxton’s ACE Premier™ product suite. ACE Premier™ includes configurable applications, tools, and simulators that dramatically reduce cost and accelerate deployment of command and control systems. Braxton is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

SOURCE: BUSINESSWIRE

Raytheon OCX Team Reaches OCX Milestone

  • By Braxton
  • Published January 8, 2009
  • Tagged

The Raytheon Co.-led [including Braxon Technologies] team vying for the U.S. Air Force contract for the next generation GPS control segment (OCX) has completed a segment design review and modernized capability engineering model demonstration, the company has announced.

The segment design review was a comprehensive review of the team’s progress in systems engineering, systems architecture, and program management, according to Raytheon. Successful completion demonstrates that the design is sufficiently mature and the level of residual risk is acceptable to proceed to the program’s next phase, the company says.

The team demonstrated the ability to command modernized GPS signals, provide situational awareness, and expose data on the network through the modernized capability engineering model demonstration, according to Raytheon. It also demonstrated time-certain delivery by achieving all model objectives on time and within budget.

Raytheon is one of two companies, the other being Northrop Grumman, that are under 18-month, Phase A contracts as part of the development program for OCX. The Air Force plans to choose one company later this year to continue the program through development, deployment, and sustainment in Phase B.

“These mark major accomplishments for our entire team and significantly burn-down the execution risk on the program,” said Bob Canty, Raytheon GPS OCX vice president and program manager. “Both milestones allowed us to show the customer that we have met their requirements, significantly reduced program risk, and are well-positioned to deliver our GPS OCX solution.”

In addition to Raytheon, its OCX team includes Boeing, ITT, Infinity Engineering Systems, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, SRI International, and Braxton Technologies.