New UK Defense Satellite To Pave Way Toward ISR Constellation

The Carbonite+ satellite will be developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL).
Credit: Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd

LONDON—The UK Ministry of Defense has ordered the first satellite to support the development of its Minerva constellation, the communications backbone for a family of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites. 

The UK will spend £22 million ($29 million) on the 150-kg (330-lb.) Carbonite+ to be developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the manufacturer and defense ministry announced April 4. 

Carbonite+ will support Project Tyche, which is described by SSTL as a “key enabler” for the development of Minerva, which will provide a broadband link from the planned £970 million ISTARI SAR constellation back to commanders on the ground. 

Developing the ISTARI constellation is one of the main ambitions of the UK’s Defense Space Strategy published in February. 

“The Minerva program provides the route to use space to be fully interoperable and able to share data with our close allies,” UK Defense Procurement minister Jeremy Quin said. “This is the crucial first step in delivering this capability and I’m delighted that we’re working together with UK companies to remain at the forefront of innovation in space.”

The Tyche project aims to provide the UK’s Space Command with an “understanding and analysis of the integration activities, test environments and interfaces required to establish and maintain UK MOD rights to freely operate a space-based Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability,” SSTL states. 

The project also will help the UK defense ministry better understand security requirements and risks, and to identify further activities that may be required to mature the planned ISTARI ISR capability. 

According to SSTL, the Carbonite+ satellite will be delivered through a three-year build program and will be suitable for either horizontal or vertical launch.  

The satellite will be operated from SSTL’s facilities in Guildford, England.

Tony Osborne

Based in London, Tony covers European defense programs. Prior to joining Aviation Week in November 2012, Tony was at Shephard Media Group where he was deputy editor for Rotorhub and Defence Helicopter magazines.