Space Force pauses GPS satellite orders due to excess inventory

By Sandra Erwin,
Published by SpaceNews, 13 March 2023

Maj. Gen. Mike Greiner: “We think this was a low-risk move to help free up resources”

WASHINGTON — With several GPS satellites in storage awaiting launch opportunities, the U.S. Space Force decided to press pause on new orders, the top Air Force budget official said March 13.

The Space Force in last year’s budget was projecting to order two Global Positioning System GPS 3F satellites from Lockheed Martin, but they were removed from the 2024 budget because they’re not needed, Maj. Gen. Michael Greiner, deputy assistant secretary for budget for the Department of the Air Force, said at a Pentagon news conference. 

“We have a strong, healthy GPS constellation, and we have a little bit of a backlog with launch capability,” said Greiner. “So we think this was a low-risk move to help free up resources.”

He said the Space Force reallocated that funding to its missile-warning constellations, which are getting a big increase in the 2024 budget.

Based on the most recent order of GPS 3F satellites, each costs about $250 million. 

Four GPS 3 satellites are awaiting launch

As Greiner noted, the Space Force has purchased more GPS satellites than it’s been able to launch to orbit. 

Lockheed Martin last month delivered the 10th and final GPS 3 satellite made under a 2008 contract. Of the 10 satellites built, six have been launched, and the other four are being stored at a Lockheed Martin facility in Waterton, Colorado, awaiting launch opportunities. 

GPS 3 is a modernized version of the U.S. military’s Global Positioning System satellites that broadcast positioning, navigation and timing signals. 

Lockheed Martin is now producing a more advanced version, the GPS 3F. The company in 2018 was awarded a contract worth $7.2 billion for up to 22 GPS 3F satellites. Ten have been ordered so far.

Although it’s not requesting new satellites, the Pentagon’s 2024 budget does include significant funding for the GPS ground system and for receivers, or user equipment. 

According to DoD budget documents, it is seeking about $1.2 billion for the so-called GPS Enterprise:  $980 million for research, development and testing; and nearly $280 million for procurement.

The 2024 budget request for the GPS Enterprise funds the following: 

  • Systems engineering and integration support to manage the storage and checkout of the GPS 3 satellites already delivered. 
  • Development of GPS 3F satellites 
  • Transitioning the GPS constellation from the legacy Operational Control Segment (OCS) to the next-generation OCX. 
  • Testing and platform integration of new receivers known as MGUE Increment 1
  • Development work for MGUE Increment 2 and design activities to address MGUE Increment 1 obsolescence. 
  • GPS Program Office activities to synchronize space, control, and user segment programs, and to manage civil and military specifications and requirements. 

See: Original Article