Feeds

Second Skynet satellite to launch tonight

Pay-as-you-go satcomms for the UK forces

Seven Steps to Software Security

The second Skynet 5 UK military communications satellite is to launch today at 2204 GMT from Kourou in French Guiana, aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. It will share the ride with a Brazilian telecomms bird.

With Skynet 5B online, joining the Skynet 5A sat already in space, the Skynet 5 system will be fully operational; however an on-orbit spare, Skynet 5C, will be launched in 2008. The system will offer satellite bandwidth to the British forces anywhere from the eastern US to eastern China.

Skynet 5 is unusual among UK military equipment in that it has been provided under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). The £3.6bn satellites and supporting infrastructure are owned by Paradigm Communications, which bought them using City money.

"Other European militaries and procurement agencies have been sceptical that we could put this satcom network and services together," said Paradigm MD Malcolm Peto, talking to the Beeb.

A Paradigm executive explained the company's business model to the Reg earlier this year.

He said that the MoD wanted its own satellites, but had no money to pay for them to be built, nor any cash to run them. (The MoD equipment budget in recent years has been under a lot of pressure, for various reasons.)

However, Paradigm's management and investors noted that extra Treasury funds were available for "conflict resolution" - that is for fighting wars, as distinct from the normal defence budget. The biz community were reasonably confident that conflict-resolution money would continue to be part of Treasury plans for long enough to recoup even a hefty initial investment. They were also confident that the British forces would need satellite bandwidth in order to operate, and thus that they would spend money on it.

With the UK in Afghanistan for the long haul, and probably with a rump presence in Iraq for some time, that seems like a sensible assessment. Not to mention the likelihood of other "conflict resolutions" being required in future. Paradigm should indeed be able to offer a sound return to its investors, especially as the sat-bandwidth-hogging Predator-B/Reaper drone comes into UK service. That won't be the only thing needing to squirt a lot of data back and forth, either; and often enough for the military, satellite is the only option.

A different PFI is planned to provide refuelling tanker aircraft, another thing the UK forces often need critically but have failed to find money for. The negotiations on that one are proving tricky. Tanker planes are more likely to run combat risks than satellites are, the demand is unpredictable, and nobody except the military does air-to-air refuelling; whereas satcomms can be sold to other customers.

Paradigm feel confident.

"With one satellite already in orbit, people are starting to take notice," said Peto.

"With two in orbit we will have nothing left to prove." ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.