WASHINGTON — An experimental missile-detecting sensor was launched in 2011 aboard a commercial SES communications satellite. The project, named “commercially hosted infrared payload,” or CHIRP, was a test of whether it made sense for the Air Force to have military payloads hitch rides to space on private-sector satellites. It was part of a broader effort by the Air Force to gauge the utility of “hosted payloads” as a way to supplement or replace military purpose-built constellations.
The CHIRP project ran out of funding in 2013, and few similar efforts have been pursued since.
“Everything I heard about CHIRP was that it was a great success,” said Todd Harrison, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Military leaders are clamoring for more space-based surveillance to track missile launches and other hostile activities, “so why aren’t they putting up more hosted payloads like CHIRP to satisfy warfighter demand?” Harrison asked.
Similar questions have been raised on Capitol Hill, resulting in language in the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that directs the Pentagon to seize oversight of military investments in hosted payloads.
“Some folks in Congress are not happy” that the ...