In recent years, commercially hosted payloads have received increased attention and interest from the U.S. Government as a means of accessing space. In particular, the U.S. Air Force has been on the leading edge of exploring opportunities with commercial satellite operators and has embarked on an innovative approach with its commercially hosted infrared payload (CHIRP) flight demonstration programme.
The CHIRP programme tests a new type of infrared sensor from geosynchronous altitude and demonstrates how the U.S. Government can use commercial satellites to improve the process of testing space-based technologies. The sensor developed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) is integrated on the SES-2 satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which was launched in September 2011.
CHIRP is accomplishing 85% of the Air Force’s original program objectives at less than 15% of the cost of building and launching their own satellite - demonstrating that hosted payloads can be faster and more cost-effective.