Only a few years ago, Intelsat General was one of the few companies in the space business talking about "hosted payloads." Few people in or out of the industry understood the concept and benefits…. but not anymore. Today, we are part of a newly-formed group of companies, the Hosted Payload Alliance, pushing the solution concept to government and commercial customers. The term "hosted payload" actually found its way into the President's new National Space Policy. And the U.S. Air Force – GASP! – is talking about how hosted payloads can be a more efficient way of getting military capability to warfighters versus the traditional way of owning and launching government-owned satellite constellations.
When we first approached military planners with this concept in 2007, no one would listen. So, we have been patiently waiting for the rest of the community to get to the same place we are in realizing the tremendous benefits and savings that can be achieved with hosted payloads. In fact, we are ecstatic about the dialog happening in the Alliance and at the Pentagon. What we need to see now is action by the DoD and civilian agencies to put acquisition policies in place to take advantage of this solution. Talk is good, but action is better. Right now, the department cannot move quickly to fill gaps in capability or augment milsatcom systems. When we went to the Australian Ministry of Defence with a UHF hosted payload solution in 2009, we came away with a contract for a UHF payload six months later that will be launched aboard IS-22 in 2012, on time and under a Firm Fixed Price contract. The MoD estimated that putting a hosted payload on an Intelsat satellite will save Australian taxpayers $150 million over the 15-year life of the contract.
The U.S. Air Force is now coming to the same conclusion. A recent article inNational Defense details how the Air Force is going through an exercise to estimate what military communications capability "should cost," compared to what the DoD has been paying with cost-plus contracts all these years. As the article points out, the Air Force's Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and Space Based Infrared (SBIRS) satellites have been hugely over budget and years behind schedule. These are the last two major military constellations still being built, so now, in an era of budget austerity, the Air Force finally is turning to alternatives like hosted payloads to get future communications capacity into space.
To quote one top Air Force official, "space takes too long and costs too much." The Hosted Payload Alliance hopes to speed up that process and bring down the cost for our government customers. We ALL agree, now let's see some action!