Skynet 5

Skynet 5 has the world covered with secure, flexible and pinpoint accurate communications

There are now three military hardened Skynet 5 military communications satellites in orbit, delivering precise communications anywhere in the world. Skynet 5A and Skynet 5B entered service in April 2007 and January 2008, respectively. Skynet 5C was launched in June 2008. The satellites were designed, built and launched by Astrium.

The satellites provide world-class technology similar to that used in commercial applications for TV, telephone and internet traffic. Our systems are military hardened, to provide a secure and reliable solution that is highly resistant to attack and interference. Skynet 5 is hardened to demanding NATO standards and the world-leading anti-jamming antenna is extremely effective against hostile or non-hostile interference.

The Skynet 5 satellites are the most powerful military X-Band satellites launched to date by any nation and will allow high data rates to be available to small and disadvantaged terminals. These are typically the kinds of terminals used as a ‘first-in’ capability for disaster and rescue operations as well as military missions.

The full Skynet constellation consists of multiple spacecraft located in the Geostationary arc at 34°W, 17.8°W, 1°W, 6°E and 53°E providing X-Band and UHF coverage from approximately 100°W to 120°E.

The Skynet 5 satellites also feature steering mechanisms so they can be focused onto particular regions of the world, to support ongoing and active military operations.

The capabilities and bandwidth of the three satellites provides exceptional service to the UK armed forces and additional customers of Astrium Services. Should it prove necessary, the satellites can also be augmented by leasing capacity from other military satellite communications. The satellites can carry UHF and SHF payloads, provide secure control links, and feature anti-jam capability (Nulling Antenna), switchable connectivity and support for legacy terminals.

The satellite system is also extended through the integrated use of additional communications infrastructure, including:

  • Global mobile – from Iridium
  • Commercial Satellite communications – through Intelsat and Inmarsat
  • Fibre – provided on the ground by Cable & Wireless.

Facts about Skynet 5

  • High power 160W TWTAs on all transponders, give 56 dBW peak EIRP in each transmit spot beam and 41 dBW peak EIRP in each global beam per transponder
  • 15 active transponders ranging in bandwidth from 20MHz to 40MHz
  • Up to 9 UHF channels
  • Multiple fully steerable transmit spot beams
  • High performance active receiving antenna capable of generating multiple shaped uplink beams
  • Highly flexible switching, allowing connectivity between any uplink beam and at least two different downlink beams
  • Protection against direct attack and hostile interference
  • Compliance with NATO standards and backwards compatibility ensures coalition interoperability
  • Skynet 5 is the fourth series of spacecraft procured for UK MoD communications. The earlier series were SKYNET 1 (1969), SKYNET 2(1974), and SKYNET 4 (1990-1999). There was no SKYNET 3 series.
  • Skynet 5’s 'wingspan' is about the same as an Airbus A319 and it flies at over mach 10.
  • Skynet 5 is the first military spacecraft that isn’t owned by a government or international organisation (like NATO).
  • For two periods of 70 days each year, the Skynet 5 spacecraft goes into eclipses lasting up to 72 minutes and has to rely on its batteries instead of its solar arrays for power.