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Air Force Using HoPS IDIQ to Normalize Hosted Payload Use

By Caleb Henry | October 16, 2014
      Hops IDIQ HPSS

      From left to right: Moderator Kay Sears, President, Intelsat General, and panelists Lt. Col. Mark Brykowytch, U.S. Air Force Space & Missile Systems Center; Bryan McGuirk, COO, ViviSat; Janet Nickloy, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for National Programs, Harris Corporation, and Chair, Hosted Payload Alliance; Col. Alan F. Rebholz, Chief, Space Operations Division, U.S. Air Force; Jim Simpson, President, Boeing Commercial Satellite Services Inc., and Vice President of Commercial Satellite Systems for Space and Intelligence Systems (S&IS) within Boeing Defense, Space & Security; Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Spittle, President, SSL Federal. Photo: Access Intelligence

      [Via Satellite 10-16-2014] The United States Air Force is keen to use the $495 million Hosted Payloads Solutions (HoPS) Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract to begin consistently including hosted payloads in future architectures. Speaking on a panel at the Hosted Payload and SmallSat Summit yesterday, Lt. Col. Mark Brykowytch of Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) said all of SMC’s future mission architectures include hosted payloads and that he “can’t allow them not to.”

      In July 2014 SMC awarded 14 companies with contracts to cultivate on-orbit and ground systems services for government-furnished hosted payloads on commercial satellites. The first fully funded mission on the IDIQ is not an Air Force payload, but NASA’s Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) mission. Col. Alan Rebholz, chief of the Air Force’s space operations division, described NASA’s frontrunner position as intriguing, noting that the agency will be hosting a technically and programmatically challenging mission. Rebholz also praised the success of the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (CHIRP) flight demonstration with SES Government Solutions, which launched in 2011.

      “I cannot begin to describe the amount of goodness that came out of that,” he said.

      But CHIRP came with its own challenges. The payload proved extremely helpful in tracking the Russian Phobos-Grunt Mars mission that failed to leave Earth’s gravity correctly, helping track where it would land; but the Air Force had to create its own software for infrared data because available solutions were proprietary. The Air Force hopes to avoid similar situations in the future by making hosted payloads commonplace in the government’s long-term strategy.

      “One of those things we learned is you can’t have a one-off event. Ultimately what we identified at a program level is we’ve got to create a streamlined approach,” said Brykowytch, who is now chief of the capabilities, integration and transition division within SMC, having previously served as chief of the SMC’s hosted payload office.  “The number one lesson learned was we have got to make this a repeatable process, and I think that the IDIQ will be able to do that. CHIRP was a huge success, but it required herculean efforts.”

      Industry representatives expressed concern that the correct way to implement hosted payloads has not been well understood, resulting in their limited use. Without this understanding, there is a fear that progress with hosted payloads could stagnate again.

      “Hosted payloads are still an event,” said Janet Nickloy, chair of the Hosted Payload Alliance and VP of strategy and business development for national programs at Harris Corporation. “They are not commonplace, [and] they are not integrated into the way that the United States does business. We need them to be just part of the cycle. This is as viable an approach as building a large expensive satellite.”

      One well-received method was imitating an agreement Boeing reached with the U.S. government to guide the development of two hyperspectral small satellites for HySpecIQ. Boeing’s President of Commercial Satellite Services and VP of Commercial Satellite Systems for Space and Intelligence Systems (S&IS) Jim Simpson said part of the reason the company’s first Boeing 502 Phoenix satellite sales came to fruition was because the company reached cooperative agreements with the U.S. government to help test and look at the requirements of the system. The government has no requirement to purchase any services from the two satellites once launched in 2018, but the commitment to steer their development gave the confidence boost needed to fund the program, he said.

      For hosted payloads, similar collaborative development methods could help make sure more are funded and built. Simpson said it takes six to 10 months to get these cooperative agreements in writing, but once the ink dries commercial industry has that much more reason to invest.