Hitchhiking the Galaxy

CHIRP, the Air Force’s first payload on a commercial satellite, is set to blast off from French Guiana aboard a French Ariane V rocket this weekend. Research experiments such as the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload currently are the only military types permitted on foreign boosters, but expanding launch options for operational national security payloads could significantly cut delays to orbit, said an industry official involved in CHIRP. “There is not right now a law that allows the operational payloads” to go into space aboard non-US space launch vehicles, said Gregg Burgess, Orbital Sciences’ national security programs vice president, Monday during a teleconference with reporters. He added, “Certainly in the future, we’re looking for operational, hosted payloads.” While Russian and Chinese rockets used by commercial operators are likely off the table, “there’s going to have to probably be a Congressional campaign to open up the aperture to allow that kind of operational, hosted payload system to work in the future,” he asserted.