Press Release

Space Systems/Loral to Support DARPA on Revolutionary Hosted Payload Concept

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2012
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Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) (LORL), the world’s leading provider of commercial satellites, today announced that it was selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine how small satellites can be carried to geostationary orbit (GEO) as hosted payloads on commercial satellites. SS/L was awarded a contract to analyze and define key aspects of DARPA’s Phoenix program, which is focused on developing and demonstrating technologies to cooperatively harvest and re-use valuable components from retired, nonworking satellites in GEO.

In order to repurpose these valuable components, such as antennas, the Phoenix program plan is to attach small satellites, called ‘satlets,’ that will take control of the old components and give them new operational life. SS/L will study how to carry these satlets to orbit by giving them a ride on large commercial GEO satellites.

The vision is for satlets to be packaged in multiples in a payload orbital delivery system (PODS). After one of the PODS is dispensed, it is intended to be met by a robotic vehicle designed to retrieve the satlets and attach them to the repurposed components. The DARPA Phoenix program plans to demonstrate this revolutionary capability in space in the 2015 to 2016 timeframe, pointing a way to more cost-effective space-based capabilities.

“Ridesharing on large commercial spacecraft is an ideal way to bring the Phoenix satlets to GEO at major savings, compared to dedicated launches,” said Gerrit van Ommering, SS/L’s project manager on the effort. “The results of our studies will provide the needed specifics on the most effective ways to accomplish that.”

Dispensing rideshare payloads is an innovative use of the hosted payload capability offered by today’s very large and powerful GEO satellites, such as SS/L’s 1300 platform. The numerous commercial satellites launched each year can provide frequent and cost-effective access to space for smaller satellites such as the Phoenix satlets.

“SS/L is very supportive of developing innovative and affordable solutions for the U.S. Government’s mission needs,” said Al Tadros, vice president of U.S. Government Solutions at Space Systems/Loral. “With six to seven GEO launches of our satellites each year, we provide a unique perspective to study increasing the tempo of mass to orbit via hosted payloads across multiple platforms, thereby helping to enable missions such as Phoenix.”


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was established in 1958 to prevent strategic surprise from negatively impacting U.S. national security and create strategic surprise for U.S. adversaries by maintaining the technological superiority of the U.S. military.

To fulfill its mission, the Agency relies on diverse performers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research. DARPA’s scientific investigations span the gamut from laboratory efforts to the creation of full-scale technology demonstrations in the fields of biology, medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics, engineering, mathematics, material sciences, social sciences, neurosciences and more. As the DoD’s primary innovation engine, DARPA undertakes projects that are finite in duration but that create lasting revolutionary change.

About Space Systems/Loral

Space Systems/Loral, a subsidiary of Loral Space & Communications (LORL), has a long history of delivering reliable satellites and spacecraft systems for commercial and government customers around the world. As the world’s leading provider of commercial satellites, the company works closely with satellite operators to provide spacecraft for a broad range of services including television and radio distribution, digital audio radio, broadband Internet, and mobile communications. SS/L has launched 14 large satellites since January 2010 and there currently are 71 SS/L-built operational satellites in geostationary orbit. SS/L has successfully hosted many payloads on its spacecraft, including the first commercial Internet Router in Space (IRIS) on Intelsat-14, launched in 2009, and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) navigation payload for the European Union on SES-5, launched on July 9, 2012. Billions of people around the world depend on SS/L satellites every day. For more information, visit

About Loral Space & Communications

Loral Space & Communications is a satellite communications company. Through its Space Systems/Loral subsidiary, the company is a world-class leader in the design and manufacture of satellites and satellite systems for commercial and government applications including direct-to-home television, broadband communications, wireless telephony, weather monitoring, and air traffic management. Loral also owns 64 percent of Telesat, one of the world’s largest providers of satellite services. Telesat operates a fleet of telecommunications satellites used to broadcast video entertainment programming, distribute direct-to-home video and broadband data services, and other value-added communications services. On June 26, 2012, Loral announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement to sell Space Systems/Loral to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA.TO). The closing of the transaction is subject to regulatory and other customary closing conditions.

For more information, visit Loral’s Web site at LORL-G

SpaceRef staff editor.