Enough Policy, More Action – The Time is Now for Hosted Payloads

Last month the Hosted Payload Alliance (HPA) held an outreach event on Capitol Hill to help familiarize members of Congress and their staffers with the benefits of hosting government payloads on commercial satellites.  Teams of HPA members held more than 40 meetings with 120 policymakers and their assistants.

The goal of the event was to educate and raise awareness of the benefits of hosted payloads and how to best address the challenges of hosting government payloads on commercial satellites.

HPA members focused presentations on the numerous advantages of the hosted payloads approach, which include:

  • Enormous time savings.  Because the development of an entire satellite system is not required, a hosted payload on a commercial satellite can reach space in a fraction of the time that it would take to develop a free-flyer program.
  • Greatly reduced cost.  Placing a hosted payload on a commercial satellite costs a fraction of the amount of building, launching and operating an entire satellite because the expense of integration, launch, and operations are shared with the host satellite.
  • Greater resiliency. Hosted payloads enable a more resilient space architecture. Rather than launching a single satellite with multiple capabilities that could be a lucrative target for adversaries, hosted payloads distribute assets over many platforms and locations.
  • Increased access.  Roughly 20 commercial launches each year provide numerous opportunities for access to multiple orbit locations.
  • Operational options.  Hosted payloads can use existing satellite operations facilities with shared command and control of the hosted payload through the host satellite, or a completely dedicated and separate system operated by the hosted payload owner.

In recognition of the benefits, there is substantial national policy guidance supporting the hosted payload approach.  The U.S. National Space Policy (2010) explicitly directs the use of non-traditional options for the acquisition of space goods and services, and cites hosted payloads as one of these non-traditional options.

Similarly, the U.S. National Space Transportation Policy (2013) encourages partnerships with private industry to put U.S. government instruments on non-governmental spacecraft. Doing so will increase scientific and other capabilities, facilitate access to space, and save taxpayer dollars using hosted payloads.

And most recently, Air Force Space Command’s Space and Missile Systems Center awarded an indefinite-delivery-indefinite-quantity, or IDIQ, contract under the Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) program.  This program recognizes the benefits of hosted payloads and provides a rapid and flexible procurement vehicle for the government to acquire commercial hosting capabilities for government payloads.  Fourteen satellite operators and space hardware manufacturers, including Intelsat General, were awarded contracts through the HoPS program.

During the Capitol Hill event, we heard a lot of positive feedback from members of Congress.  Many were in agreement that in the cost-constrained and contested environment that the United States faces, hosting payloads on commercial satellites makes great sense.  The U.S. government has the policies in place, and commercial companies are ready and supportive.

So let’s get to work! The time is now for new space architectures that fully integrate this innovative and cost-effective approach to maintaining U.S. space supremacy.


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