J8.1 Commercially-Hosted Payloads: Low-Cost Research to Operations

Wednesday, 9 January 2013: 1:30 PM
Ballroom A (Austin Convention Center)
Carl Schueler, Orbital Sciences Corporation, Santa Barbara, CA
Manuscript (658.5 kB)

The Commercially-Hosted InfraRed Payload (CHIRP) demonstration launched 21 Sept 2011 was so successful that the Air Force extended the mission for six months to the end of calendar 2012, with an option to further extend the mission. CHIRP is successful in several key ways that demonstrate a low-cost Research to Operations alternative to operational remote sensing from dedicated platforms. The Air Force estimated that a dedicated geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) missile-warning demonstration would cost over $500M not including the cost of the sensor. The CHIRP mission cost $82.9M including sensor and spacecraft modifications, integration, launch, development of custom mission operations and data analysis centers, and nine months of on-orbit operations. The Air Force spent $29M upgrading a sensor from another program to fly on CHIRP. CHIRP integrated the sensor to an independently designed commercial GEO telecommunications spacecraft. Numerous interface risks were overcome, such as electromagnetic, power and data, and dynamic and static mechanical and thermal compatibility. A key challenge was maintaining the sensor focal plane and optics at low temperatures on a spacecraft designed to operate high-temperature communications payloads. Moreover, the spacecraft demonstrated fine pointing stability of a few microradians sufficient for most environmental sensing applications, and provided 70 Mbps continuous data transmittal to the mission operations center. Yet CHIRP was performed under a firm fixed price (FFP) contract, and developed and launched in 39 months from contract initiation. Environmental monitoring payload Research to Operations transition is an ideal application of commercial hosting because one of the key requirements is availability of a proven payload prior to identification of a commercial host spacecraft. The payload must be delivered for integration no later than 12 months prior to spacecraft delivery. As the commercial spacecraft build cycle is typically 24 months, the payload must be ready for integration within 12 months following spacecraft contract initiation. Typically a host spacecraft cannot be identified until just shortly before the spacecraft contract is underway. This paper reviews the principal CHIRP successes that demonstrate the applicability of commercial-hosting to reduce the cost of Research to Operations of environmental payloads and provides a hypothetical example of how a specific demonstrated meteorological research payload could be transitioned to operations using the commercial hosting approach.

┬ęCopyright 2012 Orbital Sciences Corporation

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