The Devil in the Details – Changing U.S. Space Transportation Policy

Recently a press release came out from the Hosted Payload Alliance, a not-for-profit industry alliance dedicated to educating the market about hosted payloads. The release pointed out that even as acceptance is growing in government for hosted payloads, current U.S. Space Transportation policy can often prevent them from being a viable solution.  This inhibits the innovation the DoD expects from the private sector and is necessary for making hosted payloads an operational reality.

That’s because current U.S. Space Transportation Policy prohibits the launch of government payloads on foreign launch vehicles without a special exemption. These exemptions are currently hard to secure as the process to secure one is lengthy and unclear.

This is a major issue for hosted payloads, since 80 to 90 percent of commercial satellite launches occur overseas. As a result, the HPA is requesting that various government agencies consider the following three revisions to current policy:

o       Develop a transparent and time-limited exemption process

o       Allow for exemptions to the foreign launch restrictions with conditions

o       Enable the exemption process to begin as early as possible in the acquisition planning stage

Recently we wrote about an interview with Colonel Michael Lakos, Chief of the Global Mission Support Division inside the U.S. Air Force. In it he detailed a fresh willingness to look to innovative SATCOM solutions like hosted payloads.

It would be a shame if this change in attitude is thwarted by the details of current launch policy.