Last fall, the Department of Defense (DoD) released its guidance for obtaining military SATCOM services from a commercial provider by using hosted payloads.
Many in the industry thought the guidelines were too restrictive and believe that unwieldy military procurement efforts are continuing to hamper the use of hosted payloads as an efficient and cost-effective way to launch key assets, such as sensors and relays, into orbit.
“The way that guidance read when it came out was very discouraging,” says Don Brown, vice president of hosted payload programs at Intelsat General Corp, in a recent Aviation Week story. “It was discouraging for a couple of primary reasons – it didn’t reflect the trust that the commercial industry has earned, and it was written in such a way that it tied the hands of the people throughout the U.S. Defense Department who were trying to find ways to save the taxpayer money using hosted payloads.”
As a key example of procurement success, the Australian Defense Force (ADF) implemented a hosted payload on the Intelsat 22 bird. Just three short years after the contract was signed, the ADF’s $167 million investment for 18 UFH channels officially came to life — reinforcing the viability of hosted payloads.
The ADF contract is not the only example of hosted payloads adoption. With a slated 2017 launch, NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution, or TEMPO, instrument will fly on a commercial communications satellite in geostationary orbit and will assess concentrations of pollutants over North America.
From the defense and intelligence side, many believe the proposed master contract vehicle called Hosted Payload Solutions (HoPS) is a sign that military hosted payloads are coming to full fruition. Unfortunately, it too has the potential to be slowed by the language from the DoD guidance. To counter this, many in the industry are beginning to have discussions with Major General Robert E. Wheeler, the Pentagon’s deputy chief information officer for C4 and information infrastructure capabilities, and his staff.
“It’s a very intelligent approach, because it basically says we’re going to solve some of the key issues in the master IDIQ, and then the technical details — are you flying a sensor or something else? — you can handle in the task orders,” Brown added in the article.
In addition, efforts to enhance and educate the Pentagon on the value of hosted payloads are being amped up. Josh Hartman, CEO of the Horizon Strategies Group, in an Op-Ed in Space News, stated that the future of hosted payloads provides a great opportunity to both industry and the government. Be sure to check out our recent interview with Mr. Hartman on the evolution of C4/ISR and the space market.
In today’s austere budget climate, hosted payload solutions are extremely viable and cost effective. We hope that complex military procurements don’t slow down something that will tremendously benefit both government and industry — especially when resources are stretched and mission requirements remain high.