Alliance touts benefits of hosted satellite payloads

Group seeks to share expertise, dialogue between public and private space sectors

A new industry group has launched to help promote the benefits of hosting government payloads on commercial satellites. By piggybacking on civilian spacecraft, federal agencies can save money and still carry out a range of missions such as communications, earth observation, remote sensing and research and development of new technologies.

The goal of the Hosted Payload Alliance (HPA) is to foster more open communications between potential government users and the commercial sector payload providers. Seven satellite industry firms belong to the alliance:

  • Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems
  • Intelsat General Corp
  • Iridium Communications Inc.
  • Lockheed Martin Space Systems
  • Orbital Sciences Corp.
  • SES World Skies U.S. Government Solutions
  • Space Systems/Loral

More companies, including satellite operators, manufacturers and system integrators, are expected to join what alliance officials hope will become a broad-based organization. “We believe there is a need for industry and government to work together to facilitate hosted payloads,” Don Thoma, chairman of the HPA Steering Committee, said in a March 30 alliance statement.

A key goal of the group will be to provide subject matter expertise to educate public- and private-sector stakeholders about the opportunities for hosted payloads on commercial spacecraft, Thoma said.

The formation of the HPA is the industry’s reaction to the 2010 U.S. National Space Policy, which calls for public-private partnerships to fill gaps in government space capabilities. The policy encourages federal agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to leverage commercial services wherever possible to overcome cuts in government space-bases sensor programs.

Civilian and military agencies are already looking for more affordable alternatives to expensive, dedicated government satellites. Cost cutting is a major consideration in the Defense Department’s Space Acquisition Policy, which among other things, seeks to build relationships with the private sector for hosted payloads.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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