Paradigm has signed a deal with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to extend the Skynet 5 private finance initiative (PFI).

The deal will include manufacturing, launching, testing and operation of a fourth satellite, Skynet 5D, and the extension of the Skynet 5 contract by two years until 2022.

The contract extension will provide additional capacity on the Skynet 5 constellation, so that British and allied troops receive instant access to the necessary communication resources when and where required.

The £3.6bn ($5bn) Skynet 5 satellite has been providing reliable and secure military communications services in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans since 2003.

The spacecraft allows the Royal Air Force, UK Army and Royal Navy to pass additional data more quickly between command centres.

The new system will enable UK forces to make use of next-generation weapons, such as the recently introduced Reaper drones.

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Based on Astrium’s highly successful Eurostar E3000 series, the Skynet 5 satellites have the highest-powered X-band transponders in orbit and a highly flexible uplink beam configuration.

They also have the world’s leading anti-jamming antenna to ensure that the constellation is extremely effective against hostile or non-hostile interference.

The Skynet 5D payload is already complete, and is expected to launch in 2013.