Gen. William Shelton, chief of Air Force Space Command, said the date when prime contractor Lockheed Martin and payload manufacturer Exelis are expected to have the first GPS satellite ready for launch will slip from its original target at the end of this fiscal year, according to National Defense Magazine. Technical difficulties are slowing the development process, he said.
“We’re not happy at all. Is my patience wearing thin? Yes. Has it gotten to the place where I am going to step off the cliff? No,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute.
Gen. Shelton said the Air Force is working closely with the contractors.
Shelton said the issue highlights the problem inherent in relying on one contractor for a critical technology, reports Space News. Exelis Geospatial Systems has supplied the payloads for all previous generations of GPS satellites.
“The payload hardware is built and is currently in test,” said Jared B. Adams, director of communications for Exelis geospatial systems, in an email to National Defense Magazine. “Last year, Exelis identified some development issues with the navigation payload for the first GPS III satellite that needed further work. Significant testing with flight-like engineering units and the first GPS III satellite’s flight hardware indicates that the known technical issues have been resolved, and GPS III will meet all mission and quality requirements.”
The payload delay is not expected to push back the first launch of the Lockheed Martin-built GPS III satellites in 2015. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is under contract to build eight GPS III satellites.