In a recent post on the Government Satellite Report, we featured a podcast about a Federal Aviation Administration program – the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) – a combination satellite and terrestrial network which plays a very important role in keeping Americans safe in the air, and helping airlines operate more effectively and efficiently.
The WAAS is notable for multiple reasons. The first is its important role in aviation and public safety. Another is the fact that it’s comprised of hosted payloads –WAAS equipment—antennas, receivers, and transmitters—h osted aboard commercial satellites, that are used to broadcast the WAAS signal to users throughout North America.
While the federal government has been slow adopt hosted payloads for widespread usage for plethora government space missions,, the FAA has been a believer and user of hosted payloads for decades – and there’s a very good reason for that. Hosted payloads are a faster, less expensive and easier way to get payloads into space.
Use of a commercially hosted payload means a government organization won’t have to pay the full development and construction cost of the satellite. Further, a hosted payload user won’t bear the full burden of launch costs. Finally, with approximately 20 commercial launches to geostationary orbit per year and a relatively short timeline to get a payload on orbit – approximately three years from contract to launch—use of commercially hosted payloads can enable a government program to get on orbit faster than use of traditional “free flyer” programs.
These benefits were well illustrated by Al Tadros, the Chair of the Hosted Payload Alliance and VP of Civil and DoD Business for Space Systems Loral (SSL), during the 2016 Hosted Payload and Small Sat Summit, when he listed the benefits of hosted payloads, which included, “Increased access to space, lower launch cost and risk, more resilient architectures resulting from hosting on commercial satellites, operational flexibility of having access on a large number of commercial satellites and payload-focused acquisitions rather than the full-on, purpose built, free-flyer missions that the government regularly uses.”
With the benefits so well established, it’s really no surprise that other federal agencies – besides the FAA – are starting to get the memo about hosted payloads. New hosted payload programs have been executed or announced across both the defense and civilian sectors of the federal government – including the Air Force’s CHIRP Program, and NASA’s GOLD and GeoCarb Programs.
Some of these successful hosted payload programs were the subject of a recent video released by SES Government Solutions. Here is a closer look at some of the programs that SES GS has run on behalf of the federal government:
To learn more about hosted payloads and how they can give government agencies and the Department of Defense more efficient and expedient access to space, click the following resources:
- Whitepaper: What is a Hosted Payload?
- Hosted Payloads Infographic
- PODCAST: Nicole Robinson on the benefits of hosted payloads for NOAA and other federal agencies
- PODCAST: CHIRP team discusses program and benefits of hosted payloads