Airbus has selected the National Satellite Test Facility (NSTF)
at Harwell in Oxfordshire to carry out the comprehensive test
campaign on the UK Ministry of Defence’s next generation secure
communications satellite SKYNET 6A.

The £116 million government-funded NSTF, operated by experts
from the STFC RAL Space (Science and Technology Facilities
Council), will carry out the SKYNET 6A test campaign, including
electromagnetic compatibility, as well as acoustic and thermal
vacuum testing, to replicate the harsh conditions of space.

Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space
UK, said: “SKYNET 6A is designed and manufactured at our
Stevenage and Portsmouth sites and will undergo its entire
testing campaign at the new National Satellite Test Facility.
It is fitting that the facility’s first testing contract is for
Britain’s’ next generation SKYNET 6A, which will provide
critical, secure-communications capability for our armed forces
and will help further extend the UK’s space ecosystem and

From left to right: Ian Annett, Deputy CEO UK Space Agency, Matt Fletcher Head of Environmental Test at STFC RAL Space, and Richard Budd, Head of Secure Communications UK, US & Australia, Airbus Defence and Space, at the signing ceremony for SKYNET 6A testing

Ian Annett, Deputy CEO at the UK Space Agency, said: “The
National Satellite Test Facility is a significant addition to
the UK’s growing space infrastructure that will improve the
support available for companies across the breadth of the UK
space industry, which employ thousands of people across the
country. The brand new facility, the first customer of which
will be Airbus Defence and Space, will also help attract new
businesses of all shapes and sizes to Harwell and the UK. This
will catalyse investment and accelerate the development of new
technologies for decades to come – from advanced satellite
manufacturing to secure communications, navigation and Earth

SKYNET 6A will be the first SKYNET milsatcom satellite to be
entirely designed, built and tested in the UK. The programme
involves a 500-strong team at Airbus and is being supported by
more than 45 SMEs across the UK. This geostationary
telecommunications satellite will provide secure communications
services for the UK’s armed forces around the world following
its launch in 2025.

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