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Airbus completed the first key phase of the SKYNET 6A project, achieving the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) in November. The project can now move into the next phase, leading to the Critical Design Review (CDR).

This is excellent news and demonstrates our joint commitment to work in partnership to achieve the programme schedule. The progress we are making in building the UK MoD’s next-generation military satellite and getting to this stage, despite current restrictions, really highlights the flexible and strong working relationship we have built with the Defence Digital team. SKYNET 6A, to be built entirely in the UK, will significantly enhance the UK’s milsatcoms capability, building on the heritage of the four SKYNET 5 satellites which were also built by Airbus, and which are all still operating perfectly in orbit,” commented Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK.

SKYNET 6A will extend and enhance the SKYNET fleet. The £500+ million (€565 million) contract signed with the UK MoD in July 2020 involves the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, planned for launch in 2025, and covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current SKYNET 5 system.

The SKYNET 5 programme, provided by Airbus as a full-service outsource contract, has provided the MoD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations, since 2003. Airbus has been involved in all SKYNET phases since 1974 and the current phase builds on a strong British commitment to space manufacturing in the UK. The SKYNET 5 programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for MoD, while ensuring unrivalled secure satcoms and innovation for the British armed forces.

SKYNET 6A is based on Airbus’ EUROSTAR NEO telecommunications satellite platform. It will use more of the RF spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both greater capacity and greater versatility than SKYNET 5. The satellite will feature electric orbit-raising propulsion, as well as electric station-keeping systems, for maximum cost effectiveness.


 An artist’s impression of the SKYNET 6A satellite in orbit. (Image: Airbus)

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