August 5, 2016 – The Air Force released a Request for Proposal for an Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Launch Service supporting the Global Positioning System (GPS) III-3 mission scheduled to launch in 2019. The final RFP was released on August 3 with proposals due back to the Air Force no later than September 19.
After evaluating proposals through a competitive, best-value source selection process, the Air Force will award a firm-fixed price contract that will provide the government with a total launch solution including launch vehicle production, mission integration and launch operations for the GPS III-3 satellite. The Air Force’s acquisition strategy for this solicitation achieves a balance between mission success/operational needs, and lowering launch costs, through reintroducing competition for National Security Space missions.
“Launch system certification is a key element (high technical bar) within this solicitation to provide insight into the technical capabilities and rigorous processes that demonstrate a launch vehicle contractor’s ability to design, develop, manufacture, and launch National Security Space missions and contributes to the overall flight worthiness process,” said Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive officer for Space. Prior to contract award, the contracting officer will verify that the Offeror has a certified launch system as part of a responsibility determination resulting in a high technical bar.
“Through this competitive solicitation for GPS III launch services, we hope to continue fostering competition in order to promote innovation and reduce cost to the taxpayer while maintaining our laser focus on mission success,” Greaves said.
This will be a standalone contract for one GPS III launch. GPS III is the next generation of GPS satellites that will introduce new capabilities to meet the higher demands of both military and civilian users.
GPS III is expected to provide improved anti-jamming capabilities as well as improved accuracy for precision, navigation, and timing. It will incorporate the common L1C signal which is compatible with the European Space Agency’s Galileo global navigation satellite system and compliment current services with the addition of new civil and military signals.
This is the second competitive launch service solicitation under the current Phase 1A procurement strategy. The Phase 1A procurement strategy reintroduces competition for National Security Space launch services. Under the previous Phase 1 strategy, United Launch Alliance (ULA) of Centennial, Colorado, was the only certified launch provider. In 2013, ULA was awarded a sole-source contract for launch services as part of an Air Force “Block Buy” of 36 rocket cores that resulted in significant savings for the government through FY 2017.
In May 2015, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) was certified for EELV launches resulting in two launch service providers that are qualified to design, produce, qualify, and deliver a launch capability and provide the mission assurance support required to deliver National Security Space satellites to orbit.
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and military users.
Lockheed Martin is designing and manufacturing the GPS III satellites using a production line method at Lockheed Martin’s GPS Processing Facility in Littleton, Colorado. Designed with evolution in mind, the GPS III satellites will offer on-orbit re-programmability so they can be upgraded in space to add new signals or missions, a first for the GPS constellation.