PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.: Air Force Space Command officials here maintain the Global Positioning System constellation that now has 30 operational satellites, six more than the standard.
“I have high confidence we will continue to sustain at least the 24 satellites required to maintain our current performance standard,” said Gen. C. Robert “Bob” Kehler, the Air Force Space Command commander.
The current number of satellites being used by Air Force for global positioning is the most satellites and the greatest capability to date, since GPS came into fruition in the 1970s.
“We are committed to maintaining our current level of service, while striving to increase and improve service and capability through on-going modernization efforts,” said Lt. Gen. John T. “Tom” Sheridan, commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center, which is the acquisitions arm for Air Force Space Command. “The Air Force will continue to execute an achievable growth path maintaining GPS as the premier provider of positioning, navigation and timing for the military and civilian users around the world.”
Just as it was reported in the Government Accountability Office’s report May 7, Air Force Space Command officials acknowledged the potential for an availability gap years ago, and has actively pursued and institutionalized procedures and processes to mitigate the potential gap or minimize any impact. Command officials developed key processes within the operational community as well as the acquisition community to extend the life of on-orbit assets and to ensure GPS capability is delivered in a timely manner.
The Air Force launched the seventh of its current block of IIR-M satellites in April, and will launch another one this fall followed by the first of 12 Block IIF satellites in early fiscal 2010. The IIF’s sophisticated L-band payload will include new hardware that serves the civil user community. The next generation of GPS satellites, the GPS IIIA, with additional navigation signals for both civilian and military users will improve the accuracy and availability for all users. GPS IIIA is scheduled for first launch in 2014.
“New acquisition approaches, including phased acquisition and prototyping, will reduce risk to constellation sustainment in the future,” General Sheridan said.
“Let me state emphatically; since we declared Full Operational Capability in 1995, the Air Force has maintained the constellation above the required 24 GPS satellites on orbit at 95 percent. In fact, we have achieved sub-three meter accuracy,” General Kehler said. “The Air Force has been a good GPS steward continually providing ‘better than expected’ service to our GPS users. At this point, we foresee no significant loss of service in the future, near or far.”