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DSEI 2023: UK ISTARI constellation to begin launching from 2026

The ISTARI constellation will be fully operational by 2031, underpinned by several concept demonstrators such as Oberon – a cluster of three synthetic aperture radar-based satellites. (Airbus)

The UK's ISTARI constellation will begin launching from 2026, Lieutenant Colonel James Cheeseman, capability development lead at UK Space Command, told Janes at DSEI 2023, held from 12 to 15 September in London.

The launch of the satellites will be staggered, with an expected full operational capability (FOC) achieved by 2031 that will deliver “UK-generated space data”, Lt Col Cheeseman said.

ISTARI is a GBP968 million (USD1,205.28 million) investment to develop a multisatellite system that supports global surveillance and intelligence for military operations. Project Minerva will underpin this future constellation through the development of various operational concept demonstrators – Titania, Tyche, Oberon, and Juno – that respectively seek to investigate the military utility and capabilities of advanced communications, space-based data, optical, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) information.

However, the “operational bracket of 2026–31 [for ISTARI] is slipping” because the Tyche and Oberon demonstrators are running behind schedule by at least a year, Lt Col Cheeseman noted.

By April 2024, Space Command is expected to detail what comes next after the operational concept demonstrators.

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