The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced a £1m investment into pioneering space technology to fund the UK’s own deployable satellite antenna technology.
Developed exclusively by Oxford Space Systems (OSS), the ‘wrapped rib’ antenna is a lighter, simpler and more cost-efficient design than those currently available, according to the MOD. The lightweight, carbon-fibre composite structure reduces launch costs into space, which is currently a large expense.
UK defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: “I have been clear that we need to accelerate the development of new, innovative capabilities – especially those in the space domain. It is vital that we have home-grown affordable technologies like this pioneering deployable satellite antenna to maintain a commanding military advantage over our adversaries and competitors.”
Working with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Defence Innovation Fund, the contract to develop the new deployable satellite antenna is also the largest awarded by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to a first-time supplier such as OSS.
The funding will help OSS to create a larger antenna that can meet the needs of the UK defence industry.
OSS senior commercial strategist Shefali Sharma said: “The funding allows us to create high-value employment in the space sector and grow our team of experts at our Harwell base. We can now focus on maturing the ‘wrapped rib’ antenna toward on-orbit demonstration.
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“We view our antenna technology as a key enabler for the next-generation of communications and SAR services from orbit. The antenna is highly scalable and tuneable and has been specifically designed for volume production, targeting smallsat constellations.”
The UK defence industry has been developing its capabilities in space, with Williamson announcing the launch of the Defence Space Strategy. The MOD is also working on an alternative to the EU’s Galileo satellite system with the UK Space Agency. The UK is expected to withdraw from the military side of the Galileo programme after Brexit.
DASA head Lucy Mason added: “Our work with OSS ticks all DASA’s objectives; not only did we provide the initial stimulus to establish this partnership, but it will also open up opportunities for truly cross government collaboration, with the potential to meet the needs of both our defence and security customers.
“Additionally, the project will contribute to UK prosperity by creating jobs and increasing export opportunities. This is exactly why DASA exists.”