Space Force Initiates 'Resilient GPS' Satellite Program

By Jurassic JennJun 27, 2024 09:36 AMScience
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Space Force Initiates 'Resilient GPS' Satellite Program
Space Force Initiates 'Resilient GPS' Satellite Program. Source: spacenews.com

The U.S. Space Force has taken steps to enhance its existing Global Positioning System (GPS) constellation by incorporating smaller and more cost-effective GPS satellites designed based on commercial models. In pursuit of this objective, the Space Systems Command recently released a solicitation through the Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC), calling for innovative design concepts for the Resilient Global Positioning System (R-GPS) program. This was reported by SSPDaily.

The goal of the R-GPS initiative is to supplement the current 31-satellite GPS constellation with smaller satellites that will offer a subset of primary GPS signals. These signals will be compatible with both military and civilian GPS receivers, making them versatile in their applications. The solicitation for the R-GPS program specifically targets members of the SpEC consortium, an organization dedicated to expediting the procurement of new technologies.

It is important to note that the R-GPS program should not be viewed as a replacement for the existing GPS system or the ongoing GPS IIIF program. Instead, the R-GPS system will act as a complementary component, heightening the resilience of GPS services for military, allied, and civilian users.

To facilitate the program's progress, the Space Systems Command plans to select a maximum of five R-GPS design concepts for further development. These compact satellites will broadcast Course Acquisition (C/A) signals for military and civilian use, P(Y) code for military receivers, and M-code for highly secure military applications. However, the Space Force remains open to other proposals that can bolster the system's resilience and introduce new technological advancements.

Initial awards for the R-GPS program are anticipated in the fall of 2024, with design concepts set to be received by early 2025. The Space Force aims to have approximately eight space vehicles available for launch by 2027 or 2028, contributing to an expanded and fortified GPS infrastructure.

Contextualizing GPS Vulnerabilities

The Resilient GPS program underscores broader efforts made to safeguard and enhance the capabilities of GPS infrastructure, which has become indispensable for both military operations and civilian applications. Recent events, including the conflict in Ukraine, have underscored the risks posed by GPS jamming and spoofing conducted by adversaries.

Regarding the R-GPS program, it falls under the category of initiatives fast-tracked by the "Quick Start" authority, which was approved in the Fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The Act aims to enable rapid responses to the emergence of new technological advancements or threats. However, the R-GPS program does face skepticism from some lawmakers. In the 2025 defense spending bill, the House Appropriations Committee questioned the justification for Resilient GPS and rejected a request to reallocate $117 million from other accounts to fund the program, expressing concerns over the estimated $1 billion cost over five years.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee has instructed the Pentagon's Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office to evaluate whether the Resilient GPS program truly represents the best choice for strengthening positioning, navigation, and timing capabilities.

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