The Global Positioning System enterprise reached another major milestone on October 21, when the GPS III Contingency Operations Program (COps) successfully connected with the first GPS III satellite on-orbit.
The COps system will allow the U.S. Air Force (USAF) to operationally command and control the new, more powerful GPS III satellites as well as legacy GPS satellites currently in the constellation. The first GPS III satellite was launched on December 23, 2018.
The GPS III COps program achieved several successes in recent months. First, the program completed final ground control system software testing and verification in May 2019. This was followed by delivery to sustainment and final system test completion in June 2019.
After final system test, the USAF approved installation of COps to command and control legacy operations at the Master Control Station at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and at the Alternate Master Control Station at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, California.
In October 2019, the COps program received approval from Air Force Space Command’s Operations and Communications Directorate (A3/6) to enter a trial period.
The trial period includes testing COps command and control with the live, on-orbit GPS III satellite, which allows the program office to conduct developmental and operational testing needed to thoroughly verify requirements and functionality of the satellite. The testing aims to confirm readiness for operational acceptance targeted for December 2019 and April 2020 for the GPS III satellite and COps respectively.
The GPS III COps program is managed by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Production Corps, Command and Control Systems Division, located at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California. The Production Corps is an 800 plus person team managing 26 programs across the USAF’s space portfolio.