Air Force takes $495M step toward hosted payloads for satellites
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jul 28, 2014
The Air Force has taken another step toward putting military capabilities on commercial satellites, which is one methods the Pentagon sees of reducing satellite costs.
The service’s Space and Missile Systems Center earlier this month awarded 14 companies a spot on a maximum $495 million contract for the Hosted Payload Solutions, or HoPS, program. The companies will compete for the job of putting military payloads on commercial satellites, a process that allows the commercial providers and the military to share costs.
The companies on the contract are:
- Astrium Services Government
- Harris Government Communications Systems Business Unit
- Space Systems Loral
- Millennium Engineering & Integration
- Surrey Satellite Technology
- Orbital Sciences
- ExoTerra Resource
- Lockheed Martin
- Merging Excellence and Innovation Tech,
- SES Government Solutions
- Eutelsat America
Hosted payloads is one of the options the Air Force has been moving toward as a way to bring down the mounting costs of putting satellites into orbit. Although government in general has been cautious about the concept, the Air Force did successfully use the technique with its Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload mission. The CHIRP infrared sensor was launched in September 2011 aboard an SES commercial satellite built by Orbital Sciences and operated for 27 months—completing all of its objectives—before being decommissioned.
The HoPS contract, intended to provide fast and flexible access to commercial hosting, gives government a collection of qualified satellite operators and hardware-makers to choose from.
Other government agencies, such as NASA, also will likely take advantage of HoPS or develop a similar approach. NASA, in fact, late last week issued a solicitation looking for information on potential hosted payload missions in Low-Earth Orbit. NASA said its initiative is a complement to HoPS, “and is looking for items not covered in HoPS.”
The indefinite-delivery, indefinite quantity HoPS contract has a five-year ordering period, with all work to be completed by Jan. 31, 2029.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.