Space Force argues benefits of deploying military payloads on commercial satellites


Yesterday on February 6th, 2023, the Space Forced launched a military payload aboard a satellite controlled by a commercial company. This payload is a transponder called Pathfinder 2 that will give communication services to the military as well as test out the hosted payload architecture. The satellite that it is being launched on is called Amazonas Nexus owned by a Spanish company, Hispasat.

One of the biggest benefits of using a commercial satellite for the payload is that it dramatically cuts the costs of both development and operation. By working with commercial satellite companies, it allows the military to launch payloads in less time and with much less money than building their own satellites. Hispasat will also operate the satellite, so the Space Force only needs to worry about the operation of their payload.

The military using the hosted payload architecture could have cybersecurity implications if the architecture is not implemented correctly. The military has to trust the commercial satellite in multiple ways. Firstly, they must trust that the commercial systems are entirely separate from their payload, especially for a sensitive mission. This could lead to a data leak. Secondly, they must trust that the commercial satellite is well protected against cyber attacks. If there are vulnerabilities found in the satellite, it could jeopardize the payload.

Overall, I think that the hosted payload architecture is innovative and will continue to be used in future missions, especially if the Pathfinder 2 mission is proven successful. However, if cybersecurity is not properly implemented, it could leave the payloads vulnerable to cyber attacks.