The UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is set to launch two Prometheus 2 CubeSats this year, which will be the agency’s first directly owned satellites.

The launch is part of the upcoming phase to expand the UK’s space research competencies.

The tiny satellites will support the government’s goal to make the country capable to oversee, protect and defend its interests in and through space by 2030.

Designed to operate in low-Earth Orbit, 550km above Earth, the satellites have been developed by Alton-based In-Space Missions and designed by Airbus Defence and Space.

Prometheus 2 CubeSats will serve as a test platform for monitoring radio signals and enhanced imaging, as well as a connected space communication system for the UK’s combat allies.

This joint project is being executed by Dstl’s international partners and Airbus Defence and Space UK who will jointly manage the satellites’ operations.

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The partners will also provide further ground stations for the project.

Dstl space programme manager Mike O’Callaghan said: “Over the next decade the UK will spend an additional $1.89bn (£1.4bn) on space to enhance our space domain awareness, develop a UK-built intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellite constellation and a supporting digital backbone in space, underpinned by Dstl science and technology research.”

The satellites will facilitate several payloads such as a hyperspectral imager, GPS receivers, a wide-field-of-view imager, and numerous software-defined radios.

In addition, Prometheus 2 CubeSats will assist the science and technology activities of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

Last October, Dstl and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) showcased the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies across the two countries.