The Skynet Constellation consists of military satellites that are operated by Paradigm Secure Communications on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence that uses the satellites to provide secure strategic communication services to the British Armed Forces as well as NATO forces on a global basis. The Skynet program started in 1969 with the first generation of satellites that was barely operational. Skynet 2 made its debut in 1974 and exceeded the program’s goals, operating longer than originally planned providing secure communications to government and military customers in the UK. Skynet 3 was cut and US assets were used instead, but this dependence was identified as a weakness and Skynet 4 was initiated. Skynet 4 were the first purely British-built satellites. A total of six Skynet 4 satellite were launched starting in 1990 until 2001.
The Skynet 5 Constellation is the next generation of spacecraft that are replacing the existing Skynet 4 Stage 2 system. The first Skynet 5 satellite was launched in 2007 with a second spacecraft following that same year. Skynet 5C was delivered to orbit in 2008 and Skynet 5D is next and will ride to Orbit atop Ariane 5 VA211.
Skynet 5D was manufactured by Astrium and uses the Eurostar-3000S satellite bus, featuring two deployable solar arrays and onboard batteries for power supply. The Spacecraft is equipped with a powerful communications payload. Skynet 5D has its own propulsion system and is three-axis stabilized. The vehicle has a launch mass of about 5,000 Kilograms. The satellite will operate from Geostationary Orbit with a minimum orbital life of 15 years.
Spacecraft of the Skynet 5 series feature 15 active transponders in bandwidth from 20MHz to 40MHz, up to nine UHF Channels, steerable spot beam capability, an on-board Active Receive Antenna, flexible switching capability and state-of-the-art nuclear hardening, anti-jamming and laser protection.