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Contest to Build 22 New GPS III Satellites Commences Dec. 7

New tranche of spacecraft to be called GPS IIIF

November 22, 2017

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Air Force Space Command announced Wednesday it will begin the next phase of its plan to buy another 22 GPS III satellites in two weeks.

The November 22 posting on Fed Biz Opps (fbo.gov) said the highly anticipated Request for Proposals (RFP) would be released on or about December 7. The contract for the new space vehicles is "planned as a single, predominantly Fixed Price Incentive-type contract awarded via full and open competition for production of 22 GPS III SVs."

In a related announcement the Global Positioning Systems Directorate said November 15 that it had chosen a name for this new family of satellites.

"We are officially calling this GPS IIIF," Col. Gerry Gleckel, the Directorate's deputy director, told the November meeting of the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) Advisory Board. "Just as there was a IIF that was the follow-on for the GPS II's, this is the follow-on for the GPS III."

"That name has been included in budget submission documents as we go up to the Hill," he added, referring to Congress, "which makes it official."

The upcoming contest is the second part of a two-phased acquisition approach. In May 2016 the Air Force awarded Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman contracts worth up to $6 million each. These Phase 1 deals were to help determine if enough "viable, low-risk, high-confidence sources" existed to conduct a full and open competition for Phase 2 — that is for the production of 22 GPS III SVs starting in fiscal year 2019. The Air Force has said it wants to award the entire contract to a single bidder for scheduling and cost reasons.

Though the Pentagon has invested resources in the three firms it has made clear that "participation in Phase 1 is not a prerequisite to participation in Phase 2." The GPS IIIF RFP will be located in the SMC GPS Technical Library/Bidders Library. Parties must register to receive classified documents. Contact information and details on obtaining access can be found in the notice, which is under Solicitation Number: FA8807-17-R-0009.

The plan for this next generation of satellites has shifted sharply over the last few years driven in part by anger over program delays and technical problems under current prime contactor Lockheed Martin. Progress is being made, however, and the U.S. Air Force declared the first Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellite (GPS III SV01) “Available for Launch” in October.

The Air Force’s “AFL” declaration is the final acceptance of the satellite prior to its expected 2018 launch. GPS III SV01 will have additional capabilities for U.S. and allied military forces, and a new civil signal that will improve global GPS reception in cities and other challenged environments where the signal may be bounced around by reflective surfaces or partially blocked.

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