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Hosted payloads require more co-ordination

Better co-ordination is needed between government and industry to make military payloads more common on commercial satellites, according to experts.

Speaking at the Satellite 2013 conference in Washington, DC, a panel of experts called on government and industry to co-ordinate to standardise interfaces and pricing structures, allowing faster resolution of problems and more efficient decision-making.

"Commercial practices, if you adopt them, work. We're so thrilled that NASA and SMC [the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center] appear to be hearing this message and adopting this approach," said Don Brown, vice-president of hosted payloads systems for Intelsat.

Though hosting a military payload on a commercial satellite can be advantageous for both parties, government must do a better job of sticking to schedules and resist calls for costly design changes. While military programmes are subject to what is commonly called the "vicious circle" of acquisition, in which added capabilities and programme incentives lead to cost overruns and missed deadlines, the communications satellite industry moves significantly quicker and tolerates less cost inflation.

"We're seeing some pockets of SMC which are doing a great job, we're also seeing other organisations putting constraints on the policy right now," said Bill Gattle, vice-president of aerospace systems at Harris Corporation.

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