The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has issued a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) on the initiation of Project Borealis, a joint MoD, UK Space Command (UKSC), and UK Space Agency (UKSA) programme to develop core systems required for the civil-military National Space Operations Centre.

The publication of a PQQ for Project Borealis indicates that the contract is active, with the MoD seeking potential suppliers to fulfill the contract. The value of Project Borealis range from £42m to £70m ($53.7m to £89.4m), although this is a benchmark that could be exceeded or be delivered under the initial budget, depending on the capability selected.

According to the MoD the required software developed for Project Borealis will “generate space domain awareness and space command and control, combining and coordinating both civilian and military capabilities to enable all space operations”.

In a contract notice published by the MoD in early December, Project Borealis would provide new command software to the UK Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe, to collate, analyse, and assess space information in support of UK and allied forces, as well as coordinate operational space activities for the UK military.

The PQQ states that acquisition of the capabilities will be conducted through “agile development principles”, with industry invited to propose different methodologies as part of the tendering process.

UK defence space management develops

UK Space Command is sited at RAF High Wycombe and is increasingly being tasked over overseeing the operational development and use of space-based or related systems, providing a dedicated HQ service for the domain. This includes hardware such as the Skynet military satellite constellation, which supports UK forces.

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The UK‘s focus on space-based capabilities has been brought to the fore of military development in recent years as rival powers such as Russia and China seek to exploit the domain for defence purposes.

In July this year the UK established the ‘JCO-UK’ cell, integrated within the JCO-Global initiative, within UK Space Command, in order to improve space domain awareness. The The US-led JCO Programme, or ‘Joint Task Force-Space Defense Commercial Operations Cell’, provides unclassified indications of orbital activity derived through public research, commercial SDA sensors, and analytical tools.

In 2021, Nato designated space as a contested domain, with its Article 5 pact of mutual self defence being made applicable for aggressive actions in space.