Alternative GPS III Acquisition Strategy Mulled

The Air Force is considering an alternative strategy to acquire its full complement of GPS III navigation satellites. Earlier this month, the service issued a sources-sought synopsis to ascertain whether “viable alternate sources exist” that would be ready in the next several years to compete against Lockheed Martin, the current GPS III prime contractor, to build up to 22 additional GPS III spacecraft beyond the eight that Lockheed Martin is already under contract to supply. “For every block of GPS satellites over the past 40 years, the primary risk has been the navigation payload,” states the synopsis, which “seeks to determine if alternate sources can attain a production ready configuration for a GPS III [space vehicle] with an alternate navigation payload.” The Air Force may opt to fund up to two companies in Fiscal 2015 so that they’d be ready to compete against Lockheed Martin to win the rights to build the satellites starting in 2017 or 2018. That timeline would support a first launch of one of these alternatively sourced satellites in late 2022, states the synopsis. (See also Navigating Through the Issues.)