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UK MoD launches new defence science and technology initiative

The UK MoD is to launch two micro weather-monitoring satellites in 2022 (pictured). (CIRCE CAD models courtesy of Blue Canyon Technologies)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has launched a Science and Technology Portfolio, supported by more than GBP2 billion (USD2.5 billion) worth of investment, the MoD announced on 7 June.

According to the MoD, the new portfolio plans to work with academia and British industry to accelerate cutting-edge research and development (R&D) of generation-after-next military capabilities.

The GBP2 billion funding – available between 2022 and 2026 – comes under the umbrella of the GBP6.6 billion allocated towards the R&D announced in the Defence Command Paper in March 2021, the MoD said.

A project associated with the portfolio is the Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction Cubesat Experiment (CIRCE), a micro space weather suite that will be integrated onboard two satellites and will be launched in late 2022 in partnership with the US Naval Research Laboratory, the announcement said.

CIRCE will comprise three microsensors, developed in collaboration with Defence Science & Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the University of Bath, University College London, the University of Surrey, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. They will be fixed to two ‘cereal box-sized' satellites to collect data on space weather and will form part of Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket from Spaceport Cornwall in Newquay in late 2022, the MoD said.

The sensors' mission will be to monitor changes in the ionosphere where variations in the environment can interfere with the operation of the Global Positioning System (GPS), communications, and sensing technology. In the future, these systems could help enhance space weather modelling capabilities, in turn assisting the armed forces in maintaining communication and intelligence capabilities, the announcement noted.

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