“Space technology is vital for expanding defense capabilities,” said Jeremy Quin, who is the Defence Procurement Minister making the announcement. The deployment of Prometheus-2 is a significant step forward toward our domestic space program. This partnership with Airbus and In-Space Missions will help the UK become a more resilient, robust, and significant global space entity.”
Two shoebox-sized satellites called ‘CubeSats’ will be sent into orbit as part of Prometheus-2. The mission’s hardware was developed in partnership with Space and Airbus Defence and originates from In-Space Missions Ltd, based in Hampshire. The initiative involves the UK Ministry of Defence working with a variety of international partners, notably the United States NRO (National Reconnaissance Office).
The CubeSats “will offer a test platform for evaluating radio signals incorporating GPS and advanced imaging, opening the door for a more collaborative and integrated space communication system alongside our partners,” as per the UK Space Agency.
The CubeSats will be launched into low-Earth orbit (LEO) onboard Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, which is an air-launched rocket launched from “Cosmic Girl,” a modified Boeing 747 jet. They will orbit Earth at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour, 31–62 miles apart, at a height of 342 miles.
The first of these satellites is equipped with a laser detector, a hyperspectral imager, and a GPS receiver, enabling it to capture high-resolution images of Earth while simultaneously confirming the craft’s precise time and position.
In the meantime, the second satellite will be fitted with 2 optical imaging cameras, a GPS receiver, and a laser range finder. The first camera will have a wide-angle lens and will offer a 180-degree sight of the Earth’s surface. The other will keep a watch on the other CubeSat to “help space situational awareness (SSA) and allow us to comprehend what else circles the Earth,” according to the UK Space Agency.
“The technology found in the satellites will allow the Ministry of Defence to find new approaches and algorithms for controlling satellites and data processing,” they continued. The joint mission will also assist the Ministry of Defence in better understanding how the United Kingdom and its global partners can work together to build a more powerful and flexible system at a cheaper cost than doing it alone.
“We’re placing the UK at the lead of small satellite launches, delivering world-leading competence for commercial clients and governments within a world market, enabling new opportunities and motivating the current and future generation of British space entrepreneurs, scientists, and engineers,” said Ian Annett, deputy CEO of the UK Space Agency.
“These satellites highlight the United Kingdom’s capabilities in satellite design and construction. For the first time, our satellite business will benefit from the ability to deploy from the United Kingdom and across Europe.” As a result, he noted, “high-skilled jobs will be created across the country, and a key goal of the National Space Strategy will be achieved.”