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All UK Minerva satellites to launch by 2026

Being built by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Titania is a demonstrator satellite exploring the validity of using optical laser technology to transfer data to and from space at speeds equivalent to superfast broadband. (Crown Copyright 2022)

All UK Space Command's operational concept demonstrator satellites under project Minerva and part of the wider ISTARI programme will launch by 2026, Janes learnt.

The first of this – Tyche – will launch in summer 2024, while Titania and Oberon will launch in 2025 followed by Juno in 2026, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, commander of UK Space Command, announced at the Defence Space Conference 2023 in London on 12 December.

Project Minerva consists of various operational concept demonstrators – Titania, Tyche, Oberon, and Juno – that will be the foundation for the development of a future multisatellite ISTARI intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) constellation.

Titania – currently being developed by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – will explore the military utility of low Earth orbit (LEO) direct-to-Earth free-space optical communications (FSOC), while Oberon is expected to comprise a cluster of three synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites, and Juno, a single high-resolution electro-optical satellite. Juno is also anticipated to demonstrate the utility of conducting space domain awareness (SDA) in orbit. AVM Godfrey notably disclosed that Juno may not necessarily consist of a single satellite.

The National Space Operations Centre (NSpOC), due to launch in 2024, will combine military and civil SDA data to protect assets in space, AVM Godfrey said. The centre will be equipped with a new software backbone under project Borealis to support this, with an invitation to tender expected in January 2024 and initial operating capability by December 2024, AVM Godfrey added.

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