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U.K. deepens space bands with the US, announces investments in small satellites, responsive launches

Britain will invest $ 34 million in small satellites, will increase support for the combined space business.

WASHINGTON – UK Secretary of State for Defense Penny Mordaunt announced on Thursday that Britain will be the first international partner for Operation Olympic Defender, a trial launched by the US Strategic Command 2013 to strengthen the deterrent to hostile actors in space. More recently, there has been an increased focus on preventing the spreading of space debris in orbit.

In a key speech at the Air and Space Power Conference 2019 in London, Mordaunt announced that over the next 18 months, Britain will send eight people supporting the combined space operations center, the military space for operational space planning at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In addition, the United Kingdom will invest nearly $ 34 million over the next year to launch a constellation of small, low orbiting satellites to provide "live high definition videos radiated directly into the aircraft's cockpit, providing pilots with unparalleled levels of combat awareness".

The new satellites are part of the Royal Air Force's Team Artemis initiative, a transatlantic partnership to launch the constellation, and conduct research into the wider military uses of small satellites, Mordaunt says. "Given the great extent of the challenge, this can be a relatively small-scale initiative. But effectively, we plant acorns from which future oaks will grow."

She noted that Britain is a small satellite power plant. Manufacturers and operator Surrey Satellite Technology accounts for 40 percent of the world's small satellites.

Defense bureaucracy for U.K. is also reorganization to reflect the growing importance of space. The joint forces ̵

1; which oversee healthcare, education, intelligence, information systems and cyber operations – will be strategic command. "It's much more than just a name change," said Mordaunt. It is meant to help defense leaders "think strategically." She noted that threats are "intensifying over all domains. And in space as well."

Virgin Orbit to provide launch services

To support the small satellite project, Royal Air Force collaborates with Virgin Orbit. Owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, the company launches small space satellites from the wing of a custom 747-400 aircraft.

"Science fiction becomes a science fact," said Mordaunt. "One day I want to see that RAF pilots serve their space wings and fly beyond the stratosphere."

U.K. The Space Agency announced on June 4 plans to invest in facilities at a British airport to support the launch of Virgin Orbit. Mordaunt said the RAF intends to assign a test pilot to the Virgin Orbit program. The message is that "if you join our RAF, you will participate in a service where you can become a pilot or an astronaut," she said.

Virgin Orbit will try to "show a responsive and resilient space launch," the company said in a press release. "While awaiting approval from the US government, Virgin Orbit will support a Team Artemis as a member of the partnership between an allied nation coalition and a commercial business team." Virgin Orbit's role in Artemis will be to launch satellites built and operated by Surrey Satellite Technology and other companies, with the first launch coming as late as the end of 2020.

Every launch in the Artemis project will be accomplished with short calls, with Virgin Orbit possibly receiving as little as one week's notice, said the company. "This is much faster than today's standards for launches that usually have to be planned years in advance and that work from launch sites that can only reach a narrow range of paths." The company noted that today it is almost impossible to guarantee access to any given circulation at short notice.

"We are hopeful that by demonstrating the ability to quickly and easily distribute and replace satellites in low ground, we will help to remove the incentive for any nation to invest money in damaging another nation's satellite," says Dan Hart. , President and CEO of Virgin Orbit.

Airworthy Rocky Rochelle, the head of the Royal Air Force, said: "If a satellite in circulation can no longer work, or if a new need emerges, we must start within a few days, if not hours, and it is not enough to Launch to just a few lanes. We need to place the satellite in orbit where needed. "Virgin Orbit praised the RAF decision to embed one of its test pilots, pending approval by the authorities. This pilot will provide "key operational insights on the best ways to integrate Virgin Orbit systems and its unique capabilities into RAF's planning and operations," the company said. Virgin Orbit recently completed a key drop test of its LauncherOne vehicle, the last major step in the launch of the launch.

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