Home >> January 2011 Edition >> Joseph W. Trench V.P., Navigation Systems
Joseph W. Trench V.P., Navigation Systems
Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company

TrenchFig1.jpg Under Mr. Trench’s leadership, the Navigation Systems mission area is responsive for the design, development, and production of the GPS IIR/IIR-M and GPS III programs. The mission area leverages technology, program management, and operating excellence gained through GPS program execution to drive growth and develop innovative, affordable Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) solutions.

Mr. Trench joined GE Aerospace in April 1978 as a hardware design and development engineer. Between 1978 and 1994, he held a number of increasingly responsible positions associated with the design, development and testing of ground systems used for command and control of Department of Defense and NASA communications satellites. In 1994, Mr. Trench was appointed the director of engineering at Lockheed Martin’s Missiles & Space Valley Forge, Pennyslvania facility. In 1996, he was named the Landsat 7 program director. Mr. Trench joined M&DS in January 1999 as the director of Delaware Valley Technical Operations and was soon promoted to vice president in August 2000. In June 2002, he was appointed vice president of the Department of Defense Systems line of business, responsible for ground systems supporting DoD and civil space customers.

MilsatMagazine (MSM)
Overseeing the next generation of GPS spacecraft, you must have as good of an idea as anyone…Just how critical has GPS become to the world?

Joseph Trench
Simply put, the importance of the Global Positioning System (GPS) cannot be overstated. No other satellite constellation in history has affected so many lives in so many ways. With nearly one billion users and counting, GPS has become indispensable to our world.

GPS allows the military to strike with precision when it matters most, and accurately navigate unfamiliar territory with confidence. Providing the ability to know exactly where you stand, 24/7/365, GPS has essentially taken the “search” out of the Search and Rescue mission.

More than just a military application though, the use of GPS is now a mainstay of the global information infrastructure. Banking, mobile phone operations and power grid management all depend on the accurate timing provided by GPS. Disaster relief and emergency services use location and timing services to arrive on the scene faster. Farmers, surveyors, geologists, miners and many other civil and commercial industries rely on GPS to perform their missions more safely, efficiently and affordably.

Our transportation system, in the air, on the ground and at sea, depends on GPS to navigate efficient routes that reduce fuel use and ensure safety no matter the weather conditions. These are just the most visible industries; new GPS applications are being invented every day. The power to know exactly where you are and at what precise time is tremendously valuable. And now, thanks to GPS, it’s easily available.

While not a distant memory, it’s hard to imagine a world without GPS. The constellation has been so successful and reliable that the user now either takes the system for granted, or is demanding even more precision and availability. That’s why we are building GPS III. As the current spacecraft on-orbit continue to age, but the user demand increasingly expands, GPS III will replenish and enhance the system to meet the needs of any GPS user around the world well into the future.

With the importance of this mission in mind, we are proud to be a partner with the U.S. Air Force and are laser focused on executing and delivering GPS III to provide the critical position, navigation and timing (PNT) signals that keep the world ticking.

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While the GPS III contract was awarded in May of 2008, Lockheed Martin’s experience in developing Position, Navigation and Timing solutions started long before that. Can you describe Lockheed Martin’s heritage experience in the GPS arena?

Joseph Trench
GPS is not new to us; in fact, the Lockheed Martin-built GPS IIR and IIR-M spacecraft have been and will continue to serve as work horses for the constellation for many years to come. Our team designed and built 21 GPS IIR satellites for the Air Force and subsequently modernized eight of those spacecraft, designated GPS IIR-M, to enhance operations and navigation signal performance. The current fleet of Block IIR and IIR-M satellites has reached more than 120 cumulative operational years on-orbit with a reliability record of better than 99.9 percent.

We are also engaged in the operations and sustainment of the constellation, and work closely with Air Force Space Command to maintain and monitor the GPS IIR and IIRM satellites on orbit to ensure the very best service for the military and civilian end users.

While Lockheed Martin has played a large role in GPS, the system’s success is a product of the hard work and dedication of countless government and industry organizations. All the credit in the world goes to the U.S. Air Force for successfully managing the largest, and one of the most critical military satellite constellations in the world.

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Compared to current spacecraft, what enhancements will GPS III bring for the user?

Joseph Trench
GPS III will usher in a new era of vastly improved PNT capabilities, while also reducing the cost and labor needed to operate and sustain the satellites throughout their life cycle.

GPS III will improve position, navigation and timing services and provide advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability. The first increment, in a planned three increments, GPS IIIA will deliver signals three times more accurate than current GPS spacecraft and provide three times more power for military users, while also enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.

This will dramatically improve GPS Earth coverage for military users, providing them more reliable GPS service anywhere in the world, including canyons, mountains, at sea or in dense urban environments. GPS III’s flexible payload also includes the capability to modify signals after launch, which allows the government to better accommodate future requirements without initiating a new space vehicle procurement. The design also has the flexibility to add improved clock capabilities to further enhance precision without major redesign.

AVL_ad_MSM0111.jpg To be concise, GPS III will last longer; deliver more capability; and leverage the power of international cooperation — all to meet the ever growing demand of global military and civil users, while also reducing the life cycle cost to the U.S. government.

You have mentioned the success and reliability of the current GPS constellation to date, so why do we need GPS III?

Joseph Trench
The current GPS constellation has performed extraordinarily well, and provided fantastic reliability to date. However, the various applications and infrastructures we have discussed that have come to rely on GPS, and maybe even some new applications that have not yet come to market, will require changes and capability enhancements that cannot be accommodated by the current Block II GPS spacecraft.

GPS III is a key portion of an overall GPS modernization effort that will allow the GPS architecture to affordably meet the growing and ever expanding military, civilian and commercial user needs now and well into the future.

These enhancements are driven both by technological advances and user demand. Efforts to modernize the second-generation of GPS satellites have been successful in addressing some improvement needs through retrofits to the original design, but these initiatives don’t extend far enough and the heritage designs cannot accommodate the enhancements needed in the future.

The GPS III accuracy and availability specifications have been identified as incremental improvements beyond what can be achieved by further modernizing Block II and updating the control segment. A valuable lesson both the government and industry has learned, not just on GPS, but with respect to many space acquisitions, is that the process for changing, developing, testing and implementing new designs into an operational system can create significant cost, schedule and technical challenges that often result in overrun.

GPS III, designed from the beginning with the future in mind, provides a low risk path to constellation sustainment and incremental capability insertion that can keep pace with the growth and increasingly rigorous demand of users.

Can you update us on the program’s current status and future prospects?

Joseph Trench
The GPS III team successfully completed the program’s Critical Design Review (CDR) in August 2010, two months ahead of the baseline schedule. The CDR represented the culmination of 64 lower-level CDRs, validated the detailed GPS III design to ensure it meets warfighter and civil requirements, and allowed the program to begin the manufacturing phase.

Building on the highly successful CDR, GPS III has now transitioned into the manufacturing phase and has completed over 50 percent of its Manufacturing Readiness Reviews (MRRs). Approximately 80 percent of all parts are on order and the program maintains 225 days of margin.

Working shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. Air Force and GPS user communities, the GPS III team is currently ahead of schedule and on track to deliver the much needed GPS III capabilities as planned in 2014.

While we have noted that the GPS III team completed its critical design review two months ahead of schedule, large programs like GPS III typically run into its challenges later in manufacturing and testing — can you describe how you intend to meet these challenges while keeping the program on schedule and affordable? AAE_ad_MSM0111.jpg

Joseph Trench
Having managed GPS spacecraft development and numerous other space programs, we understand the challenges that new programs often face. To mitigate risks, we have placed a heavy emphasis on reducing risk through an early and rigorous test program that identifies issues and solves problems before they become costly. With the use of flight-like engineering development units, we are succeeding thus far. Equivalent to flight units in form, fit, and function, these units are used as pathfinders for manufacturing and testing, which allows us to work out potential problems in advance of the flight hardware. 

GPS III also procured a GPS Non-Flight Satellite Testbed (GNST) that will trailblaze a path for the first space vehicle.  It provides space vehicle design level validation; early verification of ground, support, and test equipment; and early validation and rehearsal of transportation operations. The GNST will run through the same steps of the production flow as the flight vehicles, including environmental testing, through the Lockheed Martin facilities in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and Littleton, Colorado, followed by processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Software development has also been a challenge on many space programs.  The GPS III plan delivers qualified flight software prior to integration on the GNST, and well before the flight vehicle’s need. A laboratory that provides hardware-in-the-loop testing with flight-like processors is further reducing risk, and ensuring an efficient and affordable software build.

While we recognize that we will face the same challenges that many space programs do, the GPS III team is well postured to meet these challenges, mitigate risk, continue through manufacturing and proceed into integration and test — and ultimately deliver the first GPS IIIA spacecraft in 2014, efficiently and affordably.

GPS III is often noted for its “back to basics” acquisition approach — would you explain how this approach is being applied and how it is benefiting the program?

Joseph Trench
Yes, the government-industry team adopted a “Back to Basics” philosophy and applied it to the GPS III program. With an incremental approach and stable requirements, capabilities that have less technical maturity or have greater risks of being properly integrated now, are deferred to the later increments when risk is reduced.  Next, we are applying government and industry lessons learned over the past decade and reinstated rigorous technical specifications and standards, a strong emphasis on systems engineering, and a robust mission assurance process.

TrenchFig5.jpg These provide the basis for verifying the quality of the technical work and ensuring issues are surfaced earlier in the program. Additionally, the Capability Insertion Program is a key element in maturing and integrating the deferred capabilities and assessing new requirements. This approach contributes to greater assurance for meeting schedule and cost commitments and delivering mission success for the end user.

The current GPS III contract includes a Capability Insertion Program (CIP) designed to mature technologies and perform rigorous systems engineering for the future IIIB and IIIC increments planned for follow-on procurements. Eight GPS IIIB and 16 GPS IIIC satellites are planned for later increments, with each increment including additional capabilities based on technical maturity. When fully deployed, these enhancements will contribute to improved accuracy and assured availability to meet the expanding needs of military and civilian users worldwide.

Who are the main GPS III team members, and where will different aspects of the program take place?

Joseph Trench
The GPS III team is led by the Global Positioning Systems Directorate at the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, based at Los Angeles Air Force Base, California. 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 the GPS III prime contractor, with teammates ITT of Clifton, New Jersey, and General Dynamics of Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released two reports now citing a possible gap in GPS coverage in the future. What is the health of the GPS constellation going forward, what are the chances of a gap in coverage, and what needs to be done to ensure a robust constellation?

TrenchFig6.jpg Joseph Trench
Well, I’d like to first commend Air Force Space Command and the GPS Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center. Together, they have fielded and are operating the most robust GPS constellation in history. While the constellation is healthy, and a gap in coverage is not likely, the GAO report does underscore the importance of GPS and the underlying need to maintain a strong GPS architecture. Going forward, steady funding and meticulous management of GPS acquisitions will be critical to ensuring the GPS constellation meets all user requirements well into the future.

While there are many different players and aspects of the GPS sustainment and modernization effort, the Air Force has a tremendous GPS track record, one that I would bet on. To do our part, we are working shoulder- to-user communities to execute GPS III efficiently and affordably. We are on firm footing to deliver GPS III as planned in 2014.

Image credits
All artistic renditions and photographs are courtesy of Lockheed Martin, unless otherwise stated.