Skynet 5, the UK’s single biggest space project, is to be extended.The £3.6bn system, which provides secure satellite telecommunications to British armed forces, will be boosted by the addition of a fourth spacecraft.
The first three satellites were only launched in 2007-2008, but military planners envisage even more bandwidth will be needed in the future.
Skynet 5D will be built in Portsmouth for a launch in 2013. Its construction will be funded by City money.
The work will create 100 hi-tech jobs and secure another 800.
The Ministry of Defence does not actually own the Skynet system; it merely buys the services run over the spacecraft from a company called Paradigm Secure Communications.
This arrangement – one of the most expensive Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) ever signed by the MoD – pays for itself in part by the sale of spare bandwidth to “friendly” forces.