WASHINGTON — The head of Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems urged the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) March 20 to relax its rules on placing military payloads on commercial satellites, saying the current rules are unlikely to result in any hosted payload efforts being consummated.

Seal Beach, Calif.-based Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems has staked part of its pivot toward the commercial market on providing payloads that can be placed alongside a commercial payload on a commercially owned telecommunications satellite.

The company is hoping that as the Defense Department adjusts to sequestration-related budget pressures, it will realize the benefits of hosted payloads and the use of commercial satellites to lower the costs of military access to space.

The Australian Defence Force has been a showcase example of a military user taking advantage of a hosted payload opportunity, placing a UHF-band payload it purchased from Boeing on the Intelsat 22 satellite, now in orbit, which was manufactured by Boeing under contract to Intelsat. Australian authorities have said going the hosted payload route saved it some 40 percent on its UHF payload program compared with a conventional procurement of a dedicated satellite and launch.

But Intelsat’s attempt to sell a similar Boeing-provided UHF payload met with less success. The company was unable to sell it in advance of its Feb. 1 launch. The Sea Launch rocket failed shortly after liftoff, destroying the satellite, although Boeing Space and Intelligence Systems General Manager Craig Cooning told reporters in Washington March 19 that he believes the payload ultimately would have been sold.

For the U.S. Defense Department, rules setting the terms and conditions under which hosted payloads may be considered were issued in late 2012 and were met with a broadly negative industry reaction.

In his March 20 speech, Cooning said the rules “on the surface appeared too restrictive and too difficult to actually advance the use of hosted payloads. So there’s room for improvement, and I encourage those decision makers to continue to engage with industry in order to adjust this memorandum and enable broader participation.”

Cooning said the U.S. military currently receives 50-70 percent of its satellite bandwidth from commercial sources. Other estimates have shown an even higher dependence on commercial satellites by the military.



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Peter B. de Selding was the Paris Bureau Chief for SpaceNews.