The UK Ministry of Defence has formally ordered (on 19 July) an interim communications satellite, Skynet 6A, from Airbus Defence and Space (Airbus DS) for use in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). The contract is valued at GBP£500 million (US$628.5 million). The spacecraft will use the Eurostar Neo bus/platform, which has an “all electric” propulsion system. The contract covers manufacture and delivery to orbit as well as any upgrades required for the ground segment. The launch on an as yet unspecified launch vehicle will take place in 2025. The satellite is viewed as a “gap-filler” between the currently operating Skynet 5 fleet and whatever longer-term communications satellite architecture the UK MoD defines as its successor.
The order formalises an original agreement to procure the satellite from Airbus DS made in 2017. The satellite is set to be tested at the new RAL Space satellite test facility which is currently being built on a car park at the Harwell space centre in Oxfordshire.