Prometheus-2 shoebox-sized 'Cubesats' will be lauched during a UK first in the summer 10052022 CREDIT MOD.jpeg
An artist's rendering of the Prometheus-2 'Cubesats' that are to be a part of the first UK satellite launch in the summer (Picture: MOD).
Space

UK joins space race with summer satellite launch

Prometheus-2 shoebox-sized 'Cubesats' will be lauched during a UK first in the summer 10052022 CREDIT MOD.jpeg
An artist's rendering of the Prometheus-2 'Cubesats' that are to be a part of the first UK satellite launch in the summer (Picture: MOD).

The UK's first satellite launch will take place this summer in plans announced by a defence minister.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said Prometheus-2 will take off from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay as part of a three-year mission in which two satellites will operate close to Earth experimenting and test imaging and paving the way for improved interoperability.

The two shoebox-sized satellites – 'Cubesats' – will look to provide a test platform for monitoring radio signals including GPS and sophisticated imaging, paving the way for a more collaborative and connected space communication system with allies.

Prometheus-2 is a collaboration between the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and international partners, including the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The space mission will allow the MOD "to better understand how the UK and its international partners can work together to create a more capable and flexible system at a lower cost than could be achieved alone".

Technology on board the satellites will enable the MOD to identify new techniques and algorithms for operating satellites and data processing.

Mr Quin said: "Space technology is crucial for developing defence capabilities and the launch of Prometheus-2 represents another important step forward for our homegrown space programme.

"This collaboration with In-Space Missions and Airbus paves the way for the UK to become a more resilient, more robust and more significant global space entity," he added.

Ian Annett, deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: "This collaboration with In-Space Missions and Airbus paves the way for the UK to become a more resilient, more robust and more significant global space entity."

Air Vice Marshal Harv Smyth, Director of Space at the MOD, acknowledged the launch to be "a great example of the power of international collaboration – a key tenet of our Defence Space Strategy".

"Prometheus 2 will deliver immense value to the UK MOD's future space programme and, thanks to our partners in the National Reconnaissance Office, this highly-capable satellite will launch from UK soil this summer."

The Cubesats

The two shoebox-sized satellites, the Cubesats, will be carried on Virgin Orbit's Launcher One rocket which takes off horizontally from a modified Boeing 747 jet, named Cosmic Girl.

They will operate in low Earth Orbit, around 550km above the Earth and 50-100km apart at 17,000mph.

Cubesat 1 – includes a hyperspectral imager, a laser detector and a GPS receiver. The hyperspectral imager will capture multiple slivers of pictures over different wavelengths of light for higher definition images. The GPS receiver confirms the precise time and position of the satellite over the area of the Earth to be photographed.

Cubesat 2 – includes two optical imaging cameras, a laser range finder, and a GPS receiver. One camera will be fitted with a wide-angle lens for a 180-degree view of the Earth's surface with the second camera observing the other Cubesat 1 to support space situational awareness and enables us to understand what else orbits the Earth.