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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

10 May 07. Astrium has achieved a triple success on the Skynet 5 military satellite communications programme with the first satellite Skynet 5A entering full service in orbit.

Astrium is prime contractor on the Skynet 5 contract through its Astrium Services subsidiary Paradigm Secure Communications. Paradigm holds the £3.6 billion contract with the UK Ministry of Defence for the provision of secure milsatcoms until 2020.

Astrium Satellites is prime contractor to Paradigm for the design and build of three Skynet 5 military communications satellites and associated ground infrastructure which will provide significant increase in capacity and performance. (See: BATTLESPACE UPDATE Vol.9 ISSUE 11, 16 March 2007, Skynet 5A LAUNCHED, By Adam Baddeley, Deputy Editor, BATTLESPACE)

Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support said, “This important milestone is very good news for the armed forces. Skynet 5 will supply about 2.5 times the capacity of the old system and generate a very significant improvement for our global communications systems – allowing us to pass more data faster. It is an excellent example of a successful Private Finance Initiative deal.”

Astrium is also prime contractor on the Ariane 5 launchers in charge of manufacturing, and leads the launcher manufacturing activities of the various European industrial companies. Astrium Space Transportation recently signed an agreement with Arianespace to step up production of Ariane 5 launchers.

The satellite, Skynet 5A, is the first of three to be launched under a £3.6bn Private Finance Initiative (PFI) programme which has seen the Ministry of Defence working in partnership with Paradigm Secure Communications, who are the service providers, and EADS-Astrium, who built the satellite itself.

The satellite, with its world beating antenna technology and high power and data rates, provides a significant enhancement to operational capability for our forces – whether deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan or at sea. It is also being used in the field of welfare services, to provide ‘free’ messages between service personnel on operations and their families and friends.

The Skynet 5A communications satellite, which is now in orbit 40,000km above the earth’s surface, beams communications signals between headquarters in the UK and British forces deployed across the globe.

The next satellite, Skynet 5B, is due to be launched towards the end of this year, and Skynet 5C in 2008.

“We are really pleased and relived that the first Skynet 5 has become operational to provide better and faster communications for our armed forces. This project was conceived fifteen years ago and with a few bumps in the process we have delivered on time and within budget which is a collective success for the MoD, the Satcom Acquisition IPT headed by Darrell Midgley and Simon Shadbolt’s DEC Team and our sub-contractors. All systems have been tested and the satellite is functioning perfectly. The Skynet 4 constellation is still delivering services with the second system due to be retried at the end of the year. Skynet 5b will be launched at the end of this year with 5C in the middle of 2008. By March 2008 the complete system will be in full operational service,” Malcolm Peto, Managing Director of Paradigm Secure Communications said.

Darrell Midgley said, “This is a major milestone for this complex and world-first PFI contract. It is good news for our armed forces and shows how partners can work together. All future communications projects being studied by the DPA include industry partnerships as a key enabler.

Brigadier Simon Shadbolt, DEC CCII said, ”This is great news as we now have a faster more capable by some two and a half times system to provide a global communications footprint for our armed forces around the world. It also provide more flexibility, more secure traffic and image capability at the fron

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