With governments looking to find ways to both meet defense requirements and cut costs, it appears that the opportunity for creative “hosted payload” type deals has never been better. Can the satellite industry persuade key decision makers within governments/defense forces to make bold steps forward?
The unleashed potential of hosted payload profits in the public sector has always been the top prize of the private sector. Significant investments made in future systems supporting hosted payload business models have placed this technology into an exciting spotlight. But in wake of the Hosted Payload Summit in Washington, D.C. last October, other prizes, possibly more valuable, have unexpectedly revealed themselves. The discussion has shoved satellite technology into the consciousness of high-ranking, influential military officials more so now than ever before. Satellite companies, which have long been frustrated with their limits in forming long-term government plans or shaping federal policy, may have found their champion representative. Even if hosted payloads are not widely adopted by governments, the issue is already taking effect on import and export policy, trade laws and the creation of a space-situational awareness solution.
Inmarsat Government Services president, Rebecca Cowen-Hirsch, like most satellite industry executives in the government sector, knows that hosted payloads are not the end-all, be-all solution for military requirement sets, but rather one important element in a wide range of solutions available in the commercial sector. Cowen-Hirsch understands and acknowledges the interest in hosted payloads, but senses a more difficult challenge in changing the mindset of government officials responsible for executing these strategies.
“The impetus of the conversation in Washington now, more than ever, has been the ability to balance innovative concepts with mission requirements consistent with the budgetary plan. It is essential for the government to be able to look at the whole plot and to understand that mission architectural assessments come into play,” says Cowen-Hirsch. “The government should also consider the budget in terms of where and when it can get out of the business of building its own satellites with decades-old technology. The commercial side can provide innovation much faster and at more affordable rates to improve resiliency.”
Considering these issues, it was only appropriate that the SATELLITE conference group’s recent one-day Hosted Payload Summit kicked off with a keynote address from Gregory Schulte, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense ambassador, who asserted the U.S. Department of Defense’s intentions to cooperate with commercial satellite companies in leveraging hosted payload capabilities.
“We are looking to commercial hosted payload developers, providers and operators to help us think of innovative solutions to meet government and military needs,” Schulte said during his remarks. “The U.S. National Space Security Strategy that we put forth on behalf of the administration was our way of saying that we need to change the way we think about developing resilient capabilities in space.”