Under the Skynet 5 Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract signed in October 2003 and extended in March 2010, the UK MOD is procuring satellite communications services from Astrium Services up to at least 2022.
Astrium is prime contractor for the design and build of the complete Skynet 5 system. This comprises four Skynet 5 spacecraft as well as a major upgrade of the fixed terrestrial infrastructure, networks and management systems in the UK and provision of over 160 satellite communications terminals. Skynet 5A was launched in March 2007, 5B in November 2007, and 5C in June 2008. Skynet 5D is under production.
The Skynet 5 satellites are based on the new high-power E3000 variant of Astrium’s well-proven Eurostar series which has accumulated over 400 years’ operational life. Each Skynet 5 spacecraft has a launch mass of around 5 tonnes, compared to 1.6 tonnes for Skynet 4F, and a payload power of 5kW, up to four times the power of Skynet 4.
The Skynet 5 system provides reliable secure voice and data communications for combined-operations in peacekeeping and under battlefield conditions. UK Armed Forces and other government organisations will benefit from regional steerable spot beams. The technologically advanced, fully-hardened Skynet 5 satellites carry advanced UHF and SHF communications payloads with 15 active channels and extensive channel-to-beam flexibility, as well as multiple antennas for global and regional beams.
The ground systems being delivered by Astrium as part of the Skynet 5 programme include 59 Reacher tactical vehicle-mounted units in various configurations, capable of standing up to the rigours of all-terrain transport and operation in harsh environments.