The space vehicle’s service module, which contains the electrics, rocket motor, thrusters and heat management systems, was built at Astrium’s facility in Stevenage
The Astrium Skynet 5D communications satellite was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, aboard the European-designed Ariane 5 rocket on Wednesday night, as reported by Sky News.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) satellite has been designed to bolster and extend the UK’s military telecommunications system.
It is expected to be positioned in a geostationary orbit off the east coast of Africa to help allow for near-global communication facilities for British military personnel.
The space vehicle’s service module, which contains the electrics, rocket motor, thrusters and heat management systems, was built at Astrium’s facility in Stevenage, while the communication payload, which can transmit voice, data and live video, was constructed in Portsmouth.
The payload contains the brains of the satellite and can reportedly detect the power equivalent of a 60-watt light bulb from its operational height of 22,000 miles.
The satellite has greater fuel capacity than earlier versions to allow for more frequent orbit repositioning commands according to the report.
Skynet 5D has an expected operating life of at least 15 years, and is owned and operated by Astrium as part of a £4bn government private finance initiative.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The launch of Skynet 5D marks another milestone in this very successful programme.
“These satellites provide essential secure communication channels for our armed forces in Afghanistan and allow all three services to communicate with each other.”
Space has increasingly become a contested area for countries, as technology for communications and surveillance satellites spreads.
In 2007, China confirmed it had successfully shot down an old weather satellite with a missile.
Meanwhile the US has recently undertaken work on designing networked satellite clusters with side-thruster rockets to avoid missile strikes.
Britain’s Skynet satellite has hardened structures to avoid being targeted by lasers, and a special antenna to hamper signal jamming.
Astrium said in a statement: “Skynet 5 satellites feature an onboard active receive antenna which can shape beams around sources of interference, providing a unique anti-jamming capability.”
It added: “With the launch of Skynet 5D, Astrium Services will operate a fleet of eight high power X-band and UHF satellites, four Skynet 5, three Skynet 4 and the Nato IVB satellite.”