Inside GNSS Media & Research

MAY-JUN 2018

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24 Inside GNSS M A Y / J U N E 2 0 1 8 O ver at least half a dozen years the GPS III Follow On pro- gram has taken a number of dramatic turns only to wind up, in a true soap opera fashion, with the same leading characters headed to the alter. At the end of the latest, the field of suitors for the multi-billion-dollar GPS IIIF contract narrowed suddenly in April when two of the three corporate hopefuls abruptly le the field. e last one standing was Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the cur- rent tranche of GPS III satellites and a company that has been sharply criticized for several schedule-warping problems during that spacecraft's development. e Air Force was so unhappy that, at one point, it blocked the firm from par- ticipating in a portion of its then-planned GPS III re-compete. Now, however, the Air Force and Lockheed are looking forward to a long, 22-satellite relationship. Though the negotiations on the new contract were still ongoing as of press time, according to sources, the Air Force has apparently rediscovered what others have learned the hard way — it's oen more advanta- geous to stick with the partner you have. Faster and Cheaper e surprising shi in the approach to GPS IIIF is the result of self-ref lection on how the Air Force builds satellites, according to sources. The commercial satellite industry has proven it can con- struct spacecra faster and cheaper and the Air Force wants to do the same. e GPS Directorate had already said in 2017 that it would contract with just one com- pany for all of the IIIF satellites as a way to avoid issues with a redesigned space- craft. Then a study undertaken earlier this year, a source familiar with the issue told Inside GNSS, showed how sticking with its existing contractor could bring costs down as well as speed deployment. e rough goal, said the expert, is to cut the time to build a IIIF satellite by roughly 25 percent — going from around 5.5 years to 4 years. If you can do that you will save money in a number of ways, said the source, who spoke anonymously to be able to discuss the matter. First, they said, by contracting for a shorter period of time you're reducing the period of time for which you are pay- ing for contractor overhead. Moreover, in order to meet the shorter turnaround, it's necessary to change the way you think about testing — which is one of the more expensive aspects of a satellite program. "In fact," said the exert "that's one of the big reasons the civil community does so well. e testing is very short." e approach to testing is indeed one of the factors that distinguish a commer- cial project from a government one, said Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security. "The test program under govern- ment oversight is different than under commercial oversight," Caret told the 34th Space Symposium in April, "and it doesn't mean that the commercial pro- cesses are any less robust." Even if you don't adopt a commercial testing approach, said the source, stick- ing with the same contractor ensures you don't have to deal with new testing regimes. GPS IIIF: The Air Force Decides to Stick With Lockheed DEE ANN DIVIS Dee Ann Divis has covered GNSS and the aerospace industry since the early 1990s, writing for Jane's International Defense Review, the Los Angeles Times, AeroSpace Daily and other publications. She was the science and technology editor at United Press International for five years, leaving for a year to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. WASHINGTON VIEW Leanne Caret, President and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

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