Space

Behind the scenes of UK's first-ever orbital satellite launch

The Prometheus 2 mission is hoped to be the first step towards Britain developing its own homegrown space programme.

Later this year the UK's first-ever orbital satellite launch will take place from a spaceport in Cornwall.

In its payload will be two Cubesats that it is hoped will pave the way for a new generation of British military satellites.

Britain's future military surveillance satellites are being developed in a business park in Hampshire and Forces News has been able to gain access to take a closer look.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said that the UK's first satellite launch would take place this summer in early May.

The Prometheus-2 is set to take off from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay as part of a three-year mission in which the two CubeSats satellites will operate close to Earth experimenting and test imaging and paving the way for better interoperability.

This mission is a collaboration between the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Ministry of Defence's (MOD) own science laboratory, and Airbus. 

Primarily the satellites will be used to test a range of different cameras, lasers, and GPS systems.

It is hoped it will be a first step toward Britain developing its own homegrown space programme.

Cubesats like this will be sent into orbit on Prometheus 2 mission 10062022 CREDIT BFBS.jpg
Two cubesats satellites like this will be sent into orbit as part of the UK’s first-ever orbital satellite launch.

The plan is for the satellites to spend the next five years travelling in low earth orbit 340 miles above the planet. 

Operating as a pair, at around 50 miles apart, they will be beaming back data as they circle the globe at 17,000 miles an hour. 

The satellites are being launched from the Virgin Orbit's Launcher One, a rocket carried under a modified Boeing 747, nicknamed Cosmic Girl.

The launch is expected to take place in late August or early September in the hope to help the UK Armed Forces gain a technological edge while also inspiring a new generation of British space scientists.