Hosted payload program teaches lessons for future launches
- By Henry Kenyon
- Mar 13, 2012
Air Force and industry officials discussed lessons learned from the Air Force’s Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) flight demonstration program and how they could be applied to future payloads on March 12 at the Satellite 2012 conference.
CHIRP is a wide field of view infrared sensor installed
on a commercial communications satellite; the payload and its host
satellite launched into orbit in 2011 aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. CHIRP
is an experiment designed to support next-generation infrared sensor
development and is a key part of the Third Generation Infrared
Surveillance system, Air Force officials said.
The payload’s infrared sensors were originally built for use on the
ground. The components had to be modified and flight rated, said Air
Force Capt. Eric Rabarijaona, CHIRP's program manager at the Space and
Missile Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base.
In the future, Rabarijaona said there will be a need to make sure
that payloads are mature technologically before a launch to allow
devices to be calibrated more easily.
Information assurance is another key part of the program. “You can
singlehandedly kill a program if it isn’t done correctly,” said
Rabarijaona. For CHIRP, it was necessary to know who the main players
were for providing information assurance approval. For example, the
program had to make sure that the Defense Security Services, the CHIRP
Mission Analysis Center, the Mission Fusion Center and the Missile
Defense Agency were working together and approving the program's
security aspects to move forward, he said.
Commercial lessons learned from CHIRP involve coordinating maneuver
schedules for spacecraft and a need to avoid outages on hosted sensor
payloads, said Timothy Deaver, vice president of market development at
SES Government Solutions.
Another learning experience involved understanding how the military
sensors operated on a commercially designed platform, Deaver said. The
sensor components were assembled in a commercial-grade clean room and
the result of this work provided the program personnel with vital
knowledge about how to operate optical payloads on commercial platforms,
CHIRP was a fixed-price program that featured cutting-edge infrared
technology, said John Fleming, CHIRP’s program manager and CHIRP Mission
Analysis Center mission director with SAIC. He said the value of the
effort was not to turn a profit but to enable new technologies in the
There are ongoing discussions for a follow-on program to CHIRP, said
Rabarijaona. He added that any follow-on efforts will depend on the
results of a performance study of the spacecraft’s infrared sensor.
“CHIRP has set a precedent for the Air Force as the first commercially
hosted Air Force payload,” he said.
Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.