CHIRP highlighted within the SES-2 satellite. Credit: SES

WASHINGTON — Following a funding-driven decision by U.S. Air Force leaders to decommission an experimental missile-warning sensor hosted aboard a commercial satellite, the service hopes follow-on technology will be ready for a flight demonstration in 2016, a service spokesman said.

CHIRP was installed and launched into orbit aboard the SES-2 telecommunications satellite owned by fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. Industry officials held up the mission as a successful pathfinder that will help lead to an increase in government use of excess payload capacity aboard commercial satellites.

The CHIRP contract was extended three times to include additional demonstrations of the sensor’s wide field-of-view staring capabilities.

In a written response to questions, Hien Vu, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said the decision to decommission the sensor saved the service $36 million.

The Air Force is now focusing on the CHIRP follow-on. In August, the service issued a request for information for a prototype wide-field-of-view staring sensor payload to be hosted aboard a yet-to-be-selected commercial communications satellite. As envisioned, the mission will have a three- to five-year mission life and cost less than $42 million.

“The Air Force is pursuing Wide Field-of-View options to include another flight demonstration in 2016 to inform future architecture decisions,” Vu said in an email. “The Air Force is in the early design phase for multiple payload designs.”

A formal request for proposals is expected in March, according to the August announcement.

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Mike Gruss is a senior staff writer for SpaceNews. He joined the publication in January 2013 to cover military space. Previously, he worked as a reporter and columnist for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. and The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind. He...