The US Space Force (USSF) Space and Missile Systems Center, at Los Angeles Air Force Base, achieved a major Global Positioning System (GPS) milestone on 18 November, with 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: M-Code signals are available on all 23 GPS Block IIR-M, IIF and III satellites currently on orbit. Operational Acceptance follows successful integrated developmental and operational testing of the GPS Operational Control Segment (OCS) upgrade. Operating in a trial period since June, 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 modernised 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).
“MCEU ushers in a new era of GPS support that will provide operators […] with assured PNT access while further preventing unauthorised 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,” stated 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 operational transition to the Next-Generation Operational Control System (OCX) Block 1, 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 COTS hardware to cost-effectively receive and process M-Code signals, enabling OCS operators to successfully monitor them.
“M-Code’s more secure, harder-to-jam and -spoof signals are critical to helping our warfighters complete their missions, especially in contested environments,” added Maria Demaree, VP/General Manager for Lockheed Martin’s Mission Solutions business. “This upgrade to the current GPS ground control system, and the launch of more modernised GPS III satellites, is making M-Code’s full fielding a reality.”