UK Nears Final Stage of Skynet Satellite Communications Network Competition

Foreign Affairs

London: Britain’s Ministry of Defence is set to launch the final stage of a competition to manage ground station capabilities for the armed forces Skynet satellite communications network by early June, say industry executives.

Although the date appears to have slipped a little, industry executives, who asked to not be identified, say they still expect the Ministry of Defence to trigger the final stage of the competition “imminently.”

The documents are expected to be issued to selected bidders within the next two weeks. Four bidder groups are in line to be selected for the next stage of negotiations, said people in the know.

The ground control elements of the Ministry’s existing Skynet 5 network are currently managed by Airbus Defence and Space as part of a long running private finance initiative deal with the MoD originally awarded in 2003.

Part of that deal is now coming to a close with Airbus’s hold on the ground control management of Skynet finishing in August 2022.

The new competition, for a program known as the service delivery wrap, aims to compete management of the ground control stations until a new generation of communication satellites are launched around 2028. That phase is being called the enduring capability element of the Skynet 6 program.

Together the service delivery wrap and the enduring capability competitions are the main parts of a Skynet 6 program, which is aimed at taking Britain’s satellite communications into a new era at a cost in the vicinity of £6 billion ($7.3 billion).

A new satellite, known as Skynet 6A, is being acquired from Airbus to ensure communication capabilities are not compromised ahead of the new generation of satellites becoming available later in the decade.

With one exception, it’s not clear who the runners might be in the final stages of the service delivery wrap competition, as the MoD has insisted all contenders sign a non-disclosure agreement preventing all communication with the media and others.