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Delivery of First GPS III Satellite Delayed by Ceramic Capacitor Testing

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September 22, 2016

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The first GPS III satellite’s delivery will be delayed by four months because of a Lockheed Martin subcontractor’s failure to test a ceramic capacitor.

The satellite, which was expected to be delivered in August, is now scheduled for shipment in December, according to a Bloomberg news article.

During Lockheed Martin’s navigation payload testing, they discovered a capacitor that had not been properly qualified per the program’s approved parts control plan, the company said. “Upon discovering the issue, we took immediate corrective action with the payload provider to qualify the capacitor. The capacitor qualification test forecast completion is [in] December,” said Chip Eschenfelder, a Lockheed Martin spokesman, in response to an Inside GNSS query.

Colonel Steve Whitney, U.S. Air Force GPS program manager, told Bloomberg that the ceramic capacitor testing should have been completed five years ago. Whitney spoke on a GPS constellation update panel at the Institute of Navigation’s ION GNSS+ meeting last week in Portland, Oregon, but did not mention the testing or satellite delivery delays.

Harris Corp., which provides the ceramic capacitor part, said it is working with Lockheed Martin and the Air Force to “remediate the situation.” Ellen Mitchell, a spokeswoman for Harris, said that the capacitor was among more than 28,000 parts used in the payload. “It is part of a legacy Exelis program that Harris acquired last year,” she told Inside GNSS.

With funding issues surrounding the GPS Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) program, the industry is wondering if a GPS III 2017 satellite launch is even realistic.

As Inside GNSS reported previously, increased personnel costs on the OCX program had eaten up the fiscal year 2016 budget and were poised to force managers to stop work on September 15. The Pentagon had requested Congress to allow $39 million to be reprogrammed to bridge the gap but lawmakers left for the summer recess without approving the change.

The last congressional committee signed off on the reprogramming on September 7, Whitney said. That money is also two-year money, he told Inside GNSS; so, it can be used to support work into fiscal year 2017, which starts October 1.

The funding should last until mid-October, Whitney said. That happens to be about the time that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter must decide whether or not to continue with some sort of revised version of the OCX program or allow the development effort to be cancelled.

Copyright © 2016 Gibbons Media & Research LLC, all rights reserved.

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