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  • Satellite Evolution

Space Systems Command delivers first Hosted Payload to Japan in historic US Space Force partnership

Space Systems Command’s (SSC) Space Domain Awareness & Combat Power (SDACP) Directorate delivered the first of two payloads to Japan, putting the United States and Japan one step closer to the launch of two US-hosted payloads on Japan's GEO-based Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS). The payload deliveries follow the historic Memorandum of Understanding signed two years ago between Japan's National Space Policy Secretariat (NSPS) and the US Space Force.

Nicholas Taylor, left, 66th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation specialist, reviews an inventory of components for the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System before loading on a transport vehicle at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Jan. 5, 2023 while Sean McCusker, 66th LRS transportation specialist, and Tyler Lima-Bybell, 66th LRS Air Transportation supervisor, look on. (US Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

The QZSS-HP program demonstrates a shared commitment to increase space partnerships in alignment with both allies' national space policies, central to the US Space Force's priority of expanding cooperation to contribute to integrated deterrence and international security. The QZSS-HP mission has been supported by SSC since its inception in 2018 as a rapid acquisition and pacesetting partnership effort with Japan.

"This delivery of the first spaceflight-ready payload represents an important milestone for QZSS-HP. While a lot of work remains, I'm happy to report that we're on track to meet our commitments," said Lt. Col. Brian Fredrickson, program manager and representative of SDACP’s Space Domain Awareness Delta. "QZSS-HP has benefitted tremendously from being categorized as a prototype, as it has enabled the program to be responsive and move with speed."


As the payloads arrive in Japan, the program will then begin the next stage of integration to the two QZSS host satellites and to prepare for launch. The two launches will expand the QZSS constellation to a total of seven.

Sean McCusker, 66th Logistics Readiness Squadron transportation specialist, guides a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft to a parking spot at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Jan. 5, 2023. (US Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

On the US side, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratories (MIT/LL) is the prime payload developer for QZSS-HP. MIT/LL and SSC have led the development from a concept in 2018 to ready to deliver hardware in 2023. In the next phase, MIT/LL and USSF personnel will mobilize to Japan to support the integration and test efforts with their Japanese partners until completion of the launch of both QZSS host satellites.


"We've worked hard to move from concept and requirements development through the design phase, and into assembly, integration, and test of the two hosted payloads very quickly. We're excited for our next steps and to work with our Japanese partners," said Capt. Alex Woodard, deputy program manager.


"This is an exciting and important mission," said 1st Lt. Joe Santiago, QZSS-HP’s logistics & security lead, adding that the delivery would not be possible without Space Force's partnership with Air Mobility Command to secure safe transit from Hanscom Air Force Base's 66th Air Base Wing in Massachusetts to Yokota Air Base's 374th Airlift Wing in Japan. "QZSS-HP's success depends on the contributions of a number of mission partners on the US side, including our partners at Yokota and Hanscom."

Tech. Sgt. Jacob McCloud, 66th Logistic Readiness Squadron quality assurance inspector, secures components for the Quasi-Zenith Satellite System to a pallet at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Jan. 5, 2023. (US Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

2nd Lt. Danielle Katz, the program’s ground lead added: “QZSS-HP is also making great strides in proving out the end-to-end connectivity with Japan to support on-orbit testing and operations.”


QZSS-HP's mission as a pacesetting partnership with Japan is not complete, but the development, test, and delivery of the first hosted payload demonstrates exactly the kind of partnership spirit needed for the Space Force to set the stage for future success.


Space Systems Command is the US Space Force’s field command responsible for acquiring and delivering resilient warfighting capabilities to protect our nation’s strategic advantage in and from space. SSC manages an $11 billion space acquisition budget for the Department of Defense and works in partnership with joint forces, industry, government agencies, academic and allied organizations to accelerate innovation and outpace emerging threats. Our actions today are making the world a better space for tomorrow.


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