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“There will always be a continuing desire for backup PNT systems”

Mar 2010 | No Comment

Donald G DeGryse

says Donald G DeGryse, Vice President, Navigation Systems for Space Systems Company, Lockheed Martin

The Navigation Systems business unit was established in 2001 and has had an eventful journey so far. What in your opinion are three ‘landmarks’ achieved by the unit since 2001?

Navigation Systems was established to combine Lockheed Martin’s world-class system engineering and integration capabilities and our extensive navigation experience to meet our customer’s position, navigation and timing needs.

Key landmark achievements since 2001 include the successful delivery and launch of 15 GPS IIR and IIR-M spacecraft for our Air Force customer. We are extremely proud of our effort in successfully modernizing the last eight satellites in GPS IIR program which is bringing new capabilities today to the GPS constellation. The IIR-M satellite series have significantly enhanced operations and navigation signal performance for military and civilian GPS users around the globe. One of these satellites also included an innovative L5 demonstration “Safety of Life” signal which broadcast for the first time, securing the allocation of the L5 frequency and paving the way for the operational signal. During the past year, the fleet of IIR/ IIR-M spacecraft achieved the milestone of 100 cumulative years of successful on-orbit operations.

Finally, we were honoured that the U.S. Air Force selected Lockheed Martin to be its partner to build the next-generation of GPS satellites, known as GPS III. We are now focused on delivering this essential capability to our customer on schedule and on cost. The GPS IIIA satellites will offer significant benefits beyond the soon to be launched GPS IIF satellites. The GPS IIIA satellites will provide signals that are three times more accurate than GPS IIF and provide three times more signal power for military users, while also providing a new Galileo-compatible civilian signal. We anticipate that the first GPS IIIA spacecraft will be available for launch in 2014.

Space Systems includes space launch, commercial satellites, government satellites, and strategic lines of business.’ What is the role of the Navigation Systems business unit in each of these lines of business of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company?

Our nation and the world are becoming more dependent than ever on space-based capabilities. Lockheed Martin has a long history of developing cutting-edge spacecraft and technologies that allow us to explore the outer limits of our universe and to connect and protect our world.

Building upon our extensive mission experience, we leverage our breadth and depth of proven capabilities, including our navigation systems expertise, to provide superior products in many different areas. Specifically, the Lockheed Martin Space Systems team leverages Corporate-wide technical talent and experience to ensure operational excellence and mission success on GPS III.

GPS and Lockheed Martin – much has been said and written. Would you please elaborate on some recent developments at Lockheed Martin vis-à-vis GPS III?

The GPS III program is based on a “back-to-basics” acquisition approach. This approach assures successful program execution through program stability and a focus on providing our war fighters needed capabilities with cost and schedule confidence. Our program plan is founded upon a close partnership with our Air Force customer and retains world-class industry teammates with the deepest experience base of over 19 years of partnership demonstrating mission success. In conjunction with our customer we recognize that program success depends on the stability of requirements, funding, and leadership. In addition, our internal focus is on operational excellence in all aspects of program execution, leading to mission success.

In 2009, our team completed a highly successful Preliminary Design Review (PDR) phase on schedule and is now progressing steadily into the Critical Design Review (CDR) phase of the program.

This includes conducting over 65 individual CDRs for key GPS III spacecraft subsystems, assemblies and elements. The phase will culminate in the fall of 2010 with a final Space Vehicle CDR that will validate the detailed GPS III design to ensure it meets warfighter and civil requirements. Given our progress to date, we are on track to a first launch in 2014.

The GPS Block IIR and IIR-M satellites designed and built by Lockheed Martin accumulated 100 years of successful on orbit operations, with a reliability record of better than 99.9 percent. Would you like to share some of the challenges faced in achieving this unmatched record of exceptional performance and reliability for GPS?

Introducing a more capable satellite into an existing constellation always has its challenges. When GPS IIR made its debut into the operational arena it brought a significant leap in technology – software reprogrammability, automated sun-earth reacquisition, and redundancy management to name a few.

Our Test Like You Fly philosophy as well as our stable, disciplined execution team were significant contributors to our exceptional performance. Once the performance and accuracy numbers came in, GPS IIR became a favourite to the warfighters and civil users. Now that the bar is set so high on accuracy, we face a new challenge of meeting those expectations every day.

GPS has proved its ‘reliability’ over the years, what is your opinion on the talk about ‘having a backup for GPS’?

The need for improved navigation has progressed throughout history where today the GPS space-based approach is the leading technology for providing precise positioning, navigation, and timing information throughout the globe.

However, one of the lessons that every navigator has learned is the importance of a backup system available whenever possible, and GPS is no different. While some may propose that global navigation satellite systems such as Galileo can act as a backup to GPS, all navigation satellite systems including GPS and Galileo are subject to vulnerabilities that can interrupt service.

As such, there will always be a continuing desire for backup PNT systems to ensure the continuity of performance for critical applications such as those involving safety of life. The issue of which systems should be retained as backup systems will be particularly challenging in today’s fiscally constrained environment.

Initial signals from the GPS IIR-20(M) launched in March 2009, were inconsistent with the performance of other GPS IIR-M satellites. What were the reasons for this and how was the problem resolved?

The GPS Wing is continuing to access the situation with GPS IIR-20(M), SVN 49. The GPS Wing wants to understand and verify to the greatest extent possible the effects that these distorted signals from SVN 49 will have on civilian and/or military users.

This verification takes time, in part because the widespread use of GPS in myriad applications worldwide. GPS has a fully operational constellation of 30 satellites (not including SVN 49) providing a high quality of service throughout the globe today, so there is no urgency to set SVN 49 healthy for constellation sustainment. This allows the GPS Wing to carry out a thorough, methodical evaluation of the impact of the distorted signals from SVN 49.

The GPS Wing is in the process of testing civilian and military receivers with the signals from SVN 49. Once all potential options are fully understood and their impact on the user community evaluated, a decision will be made when to activate the vehicle in the operational constellation.

In a recent interview Dr. Brad Parkinson has said that fears about a GPS ‘blackout’ are unjustified, but there is a possibility of a ‘brownout’ – with fewer satellites in the constellation than what are available now. Would you like to comment?

Today, the GPS constellation is a robust constellation of 30 or more satellites, and that has been maintained for quite some time. While a number of these satellites are aging, GPS satellites often exceed their design life and I anticipate that will continue in the future.

In addition, the GPS IIF satellites are expected to be available for replenishment this summer or early fall. As evidence of the confidence the Air Force has in maintaining the current constellation, the Air Force recently made the decision to reposition the satellites to a 24+3 constellation to better serve GPS users worldwide by optimizing the position of the GPS spacecraft on orbit today.

Finally, Lockheed Martin is well along in the program developing the GPS IIIA spacecraft. The GPS IIIA program is currently on budget and on schedule to have GPS IIIA spacecraft available for launch in 2014.

Besides GPS what are the other priority projects of the Navigation Systems business unit?

The Navigation Systems portfolio is comprised of initiatives that leverage the systems engineering, systems integration and product development capabilities within the corporation, to not only respond to near-term customer initiatives, but to develop solutions to issues our customers may encounter in the future. By proactively looking ahead and assessing the “what if’s”, we have been able to develop a robust pipeline for several years to come.

Our priority continues to be the execution of the GPS III program to include a rigorous Capability Insertion Program that will bring in new capabilities and improved performance for the world wide user community. In addition we continue to provide IIR/IIR-M operations and sustainment support for the current constellation.

What new applications in GNSS do you envision five years from now?

The impact that this technology has had on the countries of the world and their economies over the past decade has been tremendous. New applications using GNSS are emerging every day and I anticipate that will continue for years to come.

Certainly, location based services are going to grow in the future. In the area of transportation, the continued implementation will proceed across all modes of transportation to include Intelligent Transportation Systems. In addition, GNSS applications will bring tremendous benefits to the developing world in the areas of agriculture and disaster management.

Looking ahead, I expect that positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities, products, and services will play a vital and ever growing role in the global economic and security environment.

How do you view the coming up of other GNSS systems around the world? Is it leading to some kind of race?

Clearly, international recognition of the benefits of GNSS capabilities has increased over the past decade. In the mid 1990’s, GPS was the only fully operational GNSS system. Today at least six nations are in various stages of implementing global or regional navigation satellite systems.

By 2020, there could be as many as 12 systems in orbit which include both primary as well as augmentation systems. Many nations that want to be major players on the world stage in the first part of this century believe that it is critical that they be a provider of space-based navigation services.

Working closely with the U.S. Government and our Air Force partner, we look forward to meeting our GPS III commitment of achieving mission success by completing key milestones on-time and on-budget and delivering improved space-based PNT capabilities for users around the globe.

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