To help make air travel safer and more efficient, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) to improve the availability and accuracy of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals. To further support the WAAS system, the FAA recently awarded Raytheon a $103 million contract to develop a payload to incorporate into a new geostationary (GEO) satellite and two associated ground uplink stations.
WAAS helps improve GPS accuracy from 100 m to about 2 m and enables more direct flight routing, precision landing approaches, and even access to airports and remote landing sites without the dependence on ground based infrastructure. Raytheon’s WAAS GEO 6 payload will be hosted aboard the commercial host satellite, receiving processed signals from GEO 6 ground stations and re-broadcasting them to the user aircraft.
The FAA simultaneously operates three WAAS GEO satellite payloads to ensure continuous system availability. The sixth system, along with the previous incarnation GEO 5 (also awarded to Raytheon back in 2012), will replace two WAAS payloads that are approaching the end of their service leases. The sixth payload is expected to launch in the second quarter of 2017, with the system entering its 10-year operational phase in 2019. Raytheon is the FAA’s prime contractor for WAAS.