A hosted payload is a portion of a satellite, such as a sensor, instrument or a set of communications transponders that are owned by an organization or agency other than the primary satellite operator. The hosted portion of the satellite operates independently of the main spacecraft, but shares the satellite’s power supply, transponders, and in some cases, ground systems. The concept of a hosted payload was developed in order to enable government organizations to make use of commercial satellite platforms in order to save costs and create a more distributed architecture for space assets. 

Choosing to piggyback a hosted payload on a commercial satellite has many benefits:

  • Shorter time to space. Because the development of an entire satellite system is not required, a hosted payload on a commercial satellite can reach space in a fraction of the time that it would take to develop a free flyer program. Roughly 20 commercial satellites are launched to GEO orbit each year and each one presents an opportunity to add on additional capability.
  • Lower cost. Placing a hosted payload on a commercial satellite costs a fraction of the amount of building, launching and operating an entire satellite. Cost reductions can result from shared integration, launch and operations with the host satellite.
  • A more resilient architecture. Hosted payloads enable a more resilient space architecture by distributing assets over multiple platforms and locations. Rather than creating a single platform with multiple capabilities that could be a target for adversaries, spreading capabilities over multiple locations has the potential to contribute to a more resilient space architecture. 
  • Increased access to space. Roughly 20 commercial launches each year provides multiple opportunities for access to multiple orbit locations during the year.
  • Operational options. Hosted payloads have multiple options to use existing satellite operations facilities with shared command and control of the hosted payload through the host satellite, or a completely dedicated and separate system operated by the hosted payload owner.