FAA Official Explains Hosted Payload Strategy

FAA Headquarters Building

FAA headquarters in Washington DC. Photo: Wikipedia

[Via Satellite 05-07-2014] Earlier this year and in a key shot in the arm for the hosted payload industry, Satmex, owned by Eutelsat Communications, signed an agreement with Raytheon and Boeing to enable the Boeing-built all-electric propulsion Satmex 9 satellite to carry a hosted payload that will allow the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance aviation safety. Deanne Bunce, Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) program manager at the FAA told Via Satellite the reasons why the FAA went down the route it did.

“The FAA performed a full and open procurement for leased satellite services. The winning vendor, Raytheon Company, chose to partner with Boeing and Satmex for delivery of the leased service. The proposed satellite (Satmex 9) is the only one that meets the FAA’s orbit location and technical requirements. Cost was a consideration, but it was not the only issue. Satmex is the sixth in a series of geostationary satellite leases that has supported the FAA’s WAAS program. The FAA is transitioning from existing, expiring leases to new leases,” Bunce said.

Explaining why the FAA decided to work with an international satellite operator such as Eutelsat, Bunce said there were simply no restrictions on the use of foreign satellite operators and that the agency found Satmex to be the best fit.

“WAAS utilizes two foreign satellite operators, Telesat (Canada) and Inmarsat (United Kingdom), in current operations. Use of foreign satellite providers for hosted payload is a normal, commercial business practice and provides the government the best value. The Satmex 9 payload will serve as a replacement for one of our current, aging satellite payloads. Developing this replacement now will help ensure the availability and reliability of the WAAS service well into 2027,” Bunce added.

What is becoming clear is that satellites are an increasingly important part of the equation for an organization like the FAA.

“Satellite navigation is a cornerstone of the FAA’s modernization plans as outlined by the FAA NextGen Implementation Plan (NGIP). Such navigation systems and their augmentations will be important enablers for NextGen activities,” said Bunce. “Distribution of the WAAS service by [geostationary] satellites will continue to be a fundamental part of the system. The FAA will continue to work with the satellite community to identify satellites of opportunity in line with our sustainment strategy and FAA acquisition policy.”

According to Bunce, the FAA has always been a supporter of the hosted payload approach. “The Federal Aviation Administration performed an analysis in April 2000 to assess the cost-benefit of hosted payloads versus dedicated government-owned satellites. The analysis clearly showed that hosted payload services had greater capital and maintenance cost benefits than dedicated owned satellites,” she said. “The FAA tested and launched the initial [WAAS] service using two hosted navigation payloads and continues to use hosted payloads for its sustainment plans.”

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