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23 Nov 2023

New telescope to provide UK with crucial space awareness

New telescope to provide UK with crucial space awareness
UK MOD ' Crown copyright 2023 / All images are used for illustrative purposes only.
UK Ministry of Defence Press Release

UK Space Command and the UK Space Agency have announced the award of a contract to Spaceflux to build a new ground-based space camera-telescope system in Cyprus.

Known as Project ‘Nyx Alpha’, the telescope will monitor objects in geostationary orbit, approximately 36,000km above Earth’s equator.

Its primary mission will be to provide position information on UK satellites, helping to prevent collisions, protect critical space assets, and enhance the UK’s Space Domain Awareness (SDA). The contract brings another boost to the UK’s growing space industry, supporting existing jobs and creating opportunities in the sector.

The system has also been designed to allow for the sharing of data with partner organisations and international allies, improving the UK’s contribution to strategic space relationships, and increasing opportunities for collaboration in the space domain.

Spaceflux, a UK space technology company, will build, maintain, and routinely operate the system. It will be tasked by UK Space Agency and UK Space Command analysts from the UK Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe.

The contract award was announced today at the UK Space Conference in Belfast, by Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, Commander of UK Space Command, and Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency.

Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey, Commander of UK Space Command, said:

"Space Domain Awareness underpins our ability to protect and defend UK and allied interests in space. The UK has critical assets in geostationary orbit, and Project Nyx Alpha will help us to monitor them more closely. 

"It is great to see that UK Space Command and the UK Space Agency are working with some of the most innovative UK space companies to develop our nation’s space capabilities."

Dr Paul Bate, CEO of the UK Space Agency, said:

"With more than 8,000 operational satellites and 30,000 pieces of trackable debris orbiting the Earth, the ability to operate safely in space is growing increasingly challenging. That is why we’re putting the UK at the forefront of global efforts to ensure a safe, secure, and sustainable space environment. 

"Building and operating this new sensor in Cyprus will enhance our ability to track objects, avoid collisions and protect the satellites we depend on for daily life. The procurement marks a significant development for both the UK Space Agency and UK Space Command – by working together, we are developing the capabilities the country needs and delivering maximum value to the UK taxpayer."

Dr Marco Rocchetto, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Spaceflux, said: 

"Space Domain Awareness is vital for the safety and security of in-orbit assets and is increasingly becoming foundational in space operations. Spaceflux has developed solutions, which guarantee timeliness, reliability, and accuracy of SDA systems. As a company based in London, we’re thrilled and deeply proud to support UKSA and UK Space Command in enhancing this sovereign capability, contributing to the safety of our national space ecosystem, and promoting a secure and sustainable space environment. These contracts will not only allow us to further advance our technologies, but also contribute to the growth of the national space ecosystem."

The location and elevation of the site in Cyprus provides a better view of the geostationary orbit than sites on the UK mainland. This procurement will help UK Space Command protect and defend UK interests in space, including SKYNET, the UK’s world-leading family of military communications satellites.

At the conference, Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey and Dr Paul Bate also announced that UK Space Command and the UK Space Agency have procured SDA data from Spaceflux, as well as Raytheon Systems. These will cover Low, Medium, and High Earth Orbits, and geostationary orbits, supporting civil and military missions in space.

In addition to the contract award for the space system, UK Space Command and the UK Space Agency will launch the National Space Operations Centre next year. The National Space Operations Centre will combine and coordinate civilian and military SDA capabilities to enable operations and protect UK interests from relevant space-related threats, risks, and hazards.

These projects fulfil elements of the National Space Strategy, and the supporting Defence Space Strategy, which both highlight SDA as a key civil and defence space capability priority. SDA involves the detection, identification, and tracking of objects in space, and understanding the effects of threats and hazards such as space weather, to ensure the UK has knowledge of what is occurring in space.

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