USAF, Lockheed Martin rolling out upgraded SDR-enabled GPS stations

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force have begun the process of installing modernized receivers containing software-defined radio (SDR) technology to help the U.S. Air Force maintain the accuracy of Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signals; three of the six planned Lockheed Martin-developed receivers are now online. GPS monitoring stations are globally-dispersed, fixed-position sites that monitor GPS satellite signals and help maintain their navigation and positioning accuracy for users around the world.

The first new Monitor Station Technology Improvement Capability (MSTIC) receiver became operational at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, during June 2017; the upgrades were then rolled out to two more Air Force monitoring stations, one on the Kwajalein Atoll (Marshall Islands) and the other in Hawaii. These upgrades of the GPS monitoring stations from early 1990s technology are part of an overall effort to modernize and maintain the current GPS ground control system, known as the Architecture Evolution Plan Operational Control Segment.

Vinny Sica, vice president and general manager of Mission Solutions for , said "The new MSTIC receiver’s software-defined radio technology will replace the legacy Monitor Station Receiver Element (MSRE)’s hardware-based ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] platform originally deployed almost two decades ago. MSTIC leverages commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware without the need for custom firmware. Standard interfaces and the inherent configurability of the architecture simplifies sustainment and enables MSTIC software to migrate to new hardware platforms as commercial vendors increase processing power, improve reliability, and enhance cybersecurity.”

The U.S. Air Force Space and Missiles Systems Center's Global Positioning Systems Directorate contracted the MSTIC upgrade. Air Force Space Command’s 2nd Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS), based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, manages and operates the GPS constellation for both civil and users. Upgrades to the three remaining Air Force GPS monitoring stations are expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

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