The satellite, named Titania, will be launched by Dstl in 2023 to explore the military utility of low-Earth orbit (LEO) direct-to-earth free-space optical communications (FSOC).
Particularly, the initiative will evaluate FSOC’s potential to transfer large volumes of data securely to meet the increasing need for high bandwidth in the modern battlespace.
The technology seeks to transmit data at high speeds through a narrow laser beam between two very specific points. In this case, the satellite will communicate with Dstl’s new Optical Ground Station called Puck.
After it is launched, Titania will focus on transferring intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data.
Dstl space programme manager Dr Mike O’Callaghan said: “The Titania space mission will accelerate the development and adoption of space-based optical communications, allowing our armed forces the ability to operate in an increasingly contested environment.
“The Titania satellite will support the UK space sector and provide a solid foundation on which to conduct experimentation into FSOC and allow the science to be developed. We are delighted to be working with in-space missions on this highly innovative project.”
The contract was awarded through Serapis Lot 2 commercial framework. It will directly support 20 jobs at Hampshire-based In-Space Missions and in the UK supply chain.
The framework, jointly run by Dstl and BAE Systems, seeks to appoint smaller suppliers and enterprises to develop new capabilities with the space domain.
Dstl operates as an agency under the UK Ministry of Defence, focusing on the development of science and technology for military purposes.
Last year, it partnered with NCC to explore next-generation composite structures for future combat aircraft.