SES Government Solutions (SES-GS) has been awarded a contract extension to continue support for the US Air Force’s (USAF) commercially hosted infrared payload (CHIRP) programme.
Awarded by the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, the extension will enable USAF to continue its research and development mission and also understand the mission utility of different approaches to operating CHIRP’s IR sensor payload aboard the commercial SES-2 satellite over the next two years.
Signed in July 2008, the original five-year CHIRP contract was aimed to integrate a wide field-of-view IR sensor onto the Orbital Sciences-built SES-2 satellite, and then evaluate it from a geosynchronous altitude. The data gathered will be transmitted to a ground station for analysis, which will illustrate how USAF and other government customers can gain affordable access to space with the help of a commercial satellite operator. The SES-2 satellite was successfully integrated with the CHIRP payload and subsequently launched onboard an Ariane 5 rocket from the spaceport at Kourou, French Guiana, in September 2011. SES-GS president and CEO Tip Osterthaler said, ”CHIRP truly illustrates how a hosted payload aboard a commercial satellite can go above and beyond in providing the US Government with reliable and affordable access to space.” Manufactured by Science Applications International Corporation under a sub contract with Orbital Sciences, the CHIRP sensor is based on a 2,000 x 2,000 pixel staring array, and also features a fixed telescope that can view one quarter of the Earth from geosynchronous orbit. The sensor’s performance has met many milestones and also exceeded estimated life expectancy in orbit since the launch, according to the company. SES-2 is a hybrid C and Ku-band satellite based on Orbital’s space-proven Star 2.4 platform 24 C-Band transponders and 24 Ku- Band transponders, and features a design life of 15 years.