Lockheed: GPS Satellite Program Still On Schedule

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Lockheed Martin Corp, the company contracted to build new GPS navigational satellites, recently assured the US Air Force Space Command office that everything was “on schedule, on target” according to the department’s head. Air Force General William Shelton also dispelled rumors that the program’s cost had risen 18 percent, as initially laid out in a recent congressional report.

Shelton said of the GPS III satellite program, “There is no question in my mind that the program is going extremely well.” He says the budget is “not even close” to a level that would force the Pentagon to notify Congress dictated by the Nunn-McCurdy law. The law states that Congress must be made aware of any program that has a cost increase of 15 percent or more. If the cost increases by 25 percent or higher, a re-certification by Congress is required.

Shelton said that additional government requirements for the satellite program would likely be to blame for any rise in cost in the first two satellites, and points out that costs hadn’t yet been finalized. “It depends on what you pick as a baseline. I understand that from a bean-counter perspective that it might look like an increase but I don’t see it that way. It’s still a development program.”

The report, released by the congressional Government Accountability Office, addressed budget issues within the US military space program. It noted progress in the arenas of budget increases and delays, but pointed a finger at the first two GPS III satellites for being 18 percent over budget while still in the developmental stage. The actual increase they are estimating is $1.6 billion rather than the initial estimate of $1.4 billion.

Michael Friedman, spokesman for Lockheed, assures that the program is totally on track and prepared to launch the first satellite mid-2014, one of 32 possible satellites in a new constellation. “We are experiencing no technical show-stoppers and our program cost estimates remain within the original Air Force program office budget,” he said. They did hit a rough patch, but all issues were worked out by using a “full-sized, flight equivalent prototype of the GPS III satellite” rather than starting from scratch which would have caused costs to rise significantly.

Lockheed has been contracted to build four GPS III satellites, and negotiations for the fifth and sixth satellites will likely take place at the end of this year, and the company hopes to move to a fixed-price contract rather than cost-plus, which is the type of contract agreed on for the first four. This would make Lockheed responsible for any increase in costs, removing some of the governmental regulations currently slowing down the process and making it easier to get the job done.

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Khristen Foss

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