Late Friday, the U.S. Space Force announced Operational Acceptance for Lockheed Martin’s M-Code Early Use (MCEU) software upgrade for the GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS), the current GPS ground control system. Basically, now the ground system can handle the more secure Military Code (M-Code) signals being broadcast by 23 GPS satellites.
“M-Code’s more-secure, harder-to-jam and spoof signals are critical to helping our warfighters complete their missions, especially in contested environments,” said Maria Demaree, vice president and general manager for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Solutions line of business. “This upgrade to the current GPS ground control system, and the launch of more modernized GPS III satellites, is making M-Code’s full-fielding a reality.”
Here’s the Space Force press release:
The Space and Missile Systems Center’s Production Corps, achieved a major Global Positioning System milestone on Nov. 18 with the approval for Operational Acceptance of GPS Military-Code (M-Code) Early Use (MCEU).
The encrypted M-Code signal enhances anti-jamming and anti-spoofing capabilities for the warfighter. M-Code signals are available on all 23 GPS Block IIR-M, IIF and III space vehicles currently on orbit. The successful testing events were completed at the Master Control Station at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado and Alternate Master Control Stations at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
Operational Acceptance followed successful integrated developmental and operational testing of the GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS) upgrade. Operating in a trial period since June 2020, the MCEU upgrade allows the OCS Architecture Evolution Plan to task, upload and monitor M-Code within the GPS constellation, as well as support testing and fielding of modernized user equipment. With M-Code now declared operational, upcoming Military GPS User Equipment (MGUE) will be able to request early use of the M-Code signal-in-space to provide more secure position, navigation and timing (PNT) to warfighters.
“MCEU ushers in a new era of GPS support that will provide operators across the warfighting domain with assured PNT access while further preventing unauthorized use by our adversaries. This is a critical step in remaining the gold standard of PNT systems and promoting a peaceful, secure, stable, and accessible space domain,” said Lt. Jordan Malara, 2nd Space Operations Squadron GPS Warfighter Collaboration Cell assistant flight commander.
The USSF awarded the contract to Lockheed Martin in 2017, MCEU serves as a gap filler for M-Code operations prior to the entire GPS constellation’s operational transition to the Next Generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, which is currently in development. MCEU also includes a new software defined receiver installed globally at all six Space Force Monitoring Sites. The M-Code Monitor Station Technology Improvement and Capability (M-MSTIC) uses commercial, off-the-shelf hardware to cost effectively receive and process M-Code signals, enabling OCS operators to successfully monitor the M-Code signals.
The U.S Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base, California, is the center of excellence for acquiring and developing military space systems. Its portfolio includes the Global Positioning System, military satellite communications, defense meteorological satellites, space launch and range systems, satellite control networks, space based infrared systems, and space situational awareness capabilities.
Lockheed Martin has sustained the Space Force’s current GPS ground control system since 2013. The system is known as the GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS) Architecture Evolution Plan (AEP) or “OCS AEP.”