is eyeing opportunities to expand its military space business despite being left out of the government’s plans to implement a satellite block-buy approach under the U.S. Air Force’s Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Efficiency (EASE) procurement strategy.
Some growth for Boeing’s Space and Intelligence Systems could come through the sale of more hosted payloads, says Craig Cooning, a vice president there. Already, the company has sold hosted UHF payloads to Australia and the U.S. Jim Simpson, vice president for the sector’s business development operations, says that as many as four hosted payload sales could be captured in a year.
One option being considered by the company would compete withfor the overhead, persistent, non-imaging infrared mission now being transferred from the legacy Defense Support System to the Space-Based Infrared System ( ). Though Sbirs GEO-1 is set to launch in early May, the program has been billions of dollars over budget and delayed by years. And “I see a lot of high-price items crowding out a lot of the space portfolio,” Cooning says.
Boeing is looking at options for developing a hosted payload based on new IR technology, likely a wide-field-of-view focal plane array. It could be ready in about three years. A free-flying satellite could be ready in as little as five years, Cooning suggests. It is possible Boeing may pull some lessons from its base of classified work, which he says is “solid,” to support this effort.
Simpson says the company is working with the Air Force to get a payload certified for delivering ballistic missile launch warning messages prior to a launch. “If you want to provide a capability, it is going to have to go beyond an experiment,” Cooning says.
The Air Force is planning to boost the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload (Chirp), developed by SAIC, this year on an SES Americom communications satellite as a project to experiment with the new IR technology.
Other potential hosted payloads could include more communications, including EHF, and sensors, Simpson says.
Meanwhile, Cooning is raising questions about the implementation of the Air Force’s EASE satellite purchasing concept, which aims to garner savings by buying Lockheed Martin Sbirs and Advanced Extremely High Frequency () satellites in orders of two, rather than singly (Aerospace DAILY, Feb. 17). Both satellite programs have run woefully over cost estimates and been delivered late.
“The concept of EASE, I think, is a good concept in that if you can do effective block buys and smooth out the funding ... it takes care of a lot of issues in the space budget,” Cooning says. “Contractors that are selected ... should earn the right to use EASE, and you do that by demonstrating a reduction [in price] that is significant over time.”
Cooning says Boeing was not approached about applying the EASE model to its military space programs. However, the company is sweetening the deal for future Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) buys from last year’s four for the price of three to three for the price of two, he says. Despite problems manufacturing early WGS spacecraft, he says the company is reducing its price. “Once you are building a satellite ... you ought to see prices coming down dramatically.”
WGS 4 is now in thermal-vacuum testing and is slated for shipment to the Air Force later this year.
Overall, Boeing’s space business is characterized by Cooning as strong. Commercial space activity accounted for about 10% of last year’s revenue and it is expected to increase to 18% this year, Cooning says.