When the White House submits its budget request for the Department of Defense to Congress every year, that is not the final word. The different military services also send Congress their unfunded priority lists, which detail the projects the White House chose to forego but, the services hope, Congress will add back in. This year several of those priorities are GPS-related.
The Space Force asks lawmakers to add $225 million to fiscal year 2021 spending to enable it to launch the sixth and seventh satellites in the GPS III family of spacecraft. This acceleration of current launch plans supports “robust enabling capabilities,” the service said.
The new Space Force also wants $137 million to speed up development of the payload for the NTS-3 satellite. That satellite will carry an experimental signal incorporating Chimera, an enhancement to the GPS L1C signal. Chips Message Robust Authentication (Chimera) uses encrypted, steganographic watermarks and artful timing to make it easy for an enabled receiver to tell if it is being spoofed. Chimera will also make it possible for someone with a receiver to authenticate their own location to another party. This could enable firms to more easily thwart would-be hackers by blocking those unable to prove they are sending from expected and/or appropriate locations.
In the Vanguard
NTS-3 is “one of the Space Force vanguard technology programs aimed to demonstrate the insertion of advanced waveforms (and) reprogrammable solutions to increase navigation resiliency,” the Space Force wrote in its descriptive summary. The funding would accelerate payload development for Initial Launch Capability (ILC) in calendar year 2022. The additional money would “better align capability development” with the GPS III Follow-On (GPS IIIF) program, the Space Force wrote, noting that more details were available via classified channels.
For its part, the Air Force seeks $52 million to turbocharge development of a receiver that can use the new military signal (M-code). The money would accelerate Embedded GPS Inertial Navigation System-Modernization (EGI-M), the service said, enabling agile and robust positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) capability. The M-code receiver is intended to replace current GPS receivers, addressing obsolescence issues in the process and reducing 260+ equipment configurations to approximately 16. In addition to adding M-Code capability, the new receivers will include Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ABS-D) capability for DOD platforms, the Air Force said in its summary.
Though not directly part to the GPS program, satellite navigation is an element in one of the most intriguing requests on the Air Force list. The Golden Horde project — an effort to develop a collaborative, small-diameter bomb — incorporates three of what the Air Forces deems to be its “most urgent technologies: precision guided weapons, artificial intelligence, and communications networking.” The $35 million request would support development of an operational prototype that “autonomously optimizes coordinated attacks on emitting or Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) targets within Operators Rules of Engagement.”