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UK MoD satellites scheduled for UK launch in November

Pictured is Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket, launched by carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl, it will carry Prometheus-2 and CIRCE to space. (Virgin Orbit/Greg Robinson)

Two UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) CubeSats – Prometheus-2 and Coordinated Ionospheric Reconstruction CubeSat Experiment (CIRCE) – will be launched in November, Virgin Orbit said on 11 October.

The satellites will be launched onboard Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl aircraft as part of the company's 'Start Me Up' space mission.

The confirmed launch date has not been specified.

Start Me Up involves a total of nine individual satellites, including Prometheus-2 and CIRCE, which will be launched from UK soil – the first orbital satellite launch in the country's history.

Prometheus-2 is a CubeSat intended as a test platform for monitoring radio signals including Global Positioning System (GPS), conducting sophisticated imaging, and paving the way for a more connected space-based communication system, Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said at the Defence Space 2022 conference in London.

A three-year mission, the CubeSat was developed in collaboration with Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), In-Space Missions, and Airbus Defence and Space. Dstl owns the satellite.

CIRCE is a joint mission between Dstl and the US Naval Research Laboratory, which seeks to advance space weather measurement and modelling capabilities. It comprises two CubeSats that will orbit in near-polar low-Earth orbit.

The other satellites scheduled to be sent into orbit as part of the Start Me Up mission include ‘IOD-3 AMBER' – the first of 20 CubeSat's that will provide space-based maritime domain awareness developed by Satellite Applications Catapult, Horizon Technologies, AAC Clyde Space, and RHEA Group's ‘Dover' small satellite, intended to be a pathfinder for resilient global navigation satellite systems.

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