UK Announces First Ever Satellite Launch from British Soil11th May 2022
UK Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin announced on 10th May that in summer 2022, the UK will conduct it’s first-ever satellite launch. Prometheus-2 will be launched from Spaceport Cornwall, Quin stated. The satellite will be launched by Virgin Orbit. No date has been set for the launch as of yet.
Prometheus-2 is a pair of smallsats acting as a platform for testing radio signal monitoring, imaging, data processing and satellite operations. The project behind the satellites is an inter-governmental team including the UK Ministry of Defence and the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The project also includes a ground-side component with the “continued development” of Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)’s Hermes ground-station in Portsmouth. The satellites will also be owned by DSTL.
What’s inside the Cubesats
The satellites were designed by Airbus Defence and Space and built by In-Space Missions Ltd, which is based in Hampshire. Cubesat 1 will include a hyperspectral imager, laser detector and GPS receiver. The second satellite in the launch will focus on optical imaging, as it will carry two cameras, a laser range finder and a GPS receiver. The government’s press release specifies that one camera will be pointed Earth-ward, and the other will observe Cubesat 1 so as to work on situational awareness in space.
Virgin Orbit previously announced that the historic launch would include the Amber-1 satellite. Built by AAC-Clydespace in Scotland, this satellite will be focused on Maritime Domain Awareness. When in operation, the satellite will aid in the work against piracy and illegal fishing, for example. When the announcement was made, no time-frame for the launch had been set.
In a press release, Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart pointed to the importance of the launch as a marker regarding the UK’s developing space tech sector:
This important technology and Virgin Orbit’s collaboration with The Catapult are the latest signs of the growth we are seeing across the UK space economy. This is galvanised by our planned capability to launch straight from the United Kingdom to orbit,” said Hart.