UK small satellite demonstrator to launch by end of 2019

uk small satellite demonstrator
© iStock/forplayday

UK Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt has committed £30m (€33.38m) in funding for development of a small satellite demonstrator, set to be completed by the end of the year.

The UK small satellite demonstrator will be supported by Team ARTEMIS, a team of defence personnel drawn from the UK and the USA who will deliver the launch of the satellites and conduct additional research into their potential wider military usage; and funded through the Transformation Fund. The small satellites, which will operate on a low orbit path, are more cost-effective and easily replaceable than previous models.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, said: “I am delighted that the Secretary of State has announced our plans to take our space ambitions to the next stage through Project ARTEMIS. When this is combined with our investments in the training and development of our people, improved command and control, greater space situational awareness, and our commitment to the Space Coalition with our allies, it all underlines the important and constantly growing role of space in the Royal Air Force’s capabilities. ARTEMIS gives us the opportunity to grow skills, understand the military relevance of small satellites and responsive launch, and consider how to get space-based information to the war fighter in operationally relevant timelines, all of which are vital to ensure we stay ahead of the evolving threat.”

The UK small satellite demonstrator will join a number of newly-announced projects aimed at cementing the UK’s role as a leader in space research and exploration, including becoming the first international partner in the USA’s Operation Olympic Defender coalition and seconding a test pilot from the RAF to the Virgin Orbit programme.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, the Defence Secretary said: “Today we show the sky is no longer the limit for our Armed Forces with a multi-million-pound investment in the launch of a small satellite demonstrator, supported by a new transatlantic team of defence personnel. In the face of evolving threats from hostile actors in space, we are acting more closely than ever with our international allies through Five Eyes, NATO and now Operation Olympic Defender. Faced with the evolving threats posed by grey-zone warfare, our transformed Strategic Command will provide the structure and coordination our Armed Forces need across all five domains.”

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