Statement from In-Space Missions CEO, Doug Liddle, following the launch failure of Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rocket last night carrying two Prometheus-2 satellites:
”“The In-Space team are devastated that the Prometheus-2 satellites were lost at sea following the failure of the launch from Cornwall last night. The two satellites that we co-designed and built with Dstl and Airbus would have been two of the most complex and powerful cubesats to orbit the Earth. Working so closely with both Dstl and Airbus has been an exceptional experience and the In-Space team is deeply sad to not be following that collaboration through to the next stage to operate the satellites and deliver an amazing set of capability demonstrations to Dstl/MOD. Our hearts also go out to our co-passengers on the launch as well as the brilliant teams at Virgin Orbit, Spaceport Cornwall, the UK Space Agency and Kispe who made this historic first attempt at UK launch a reality. We will all recover, and we’ll be back - stronger than ever before.”
The launch from Newquay Airport on Cosmic Girl, a modified 747 aircraft, was the UK’s first ever orbital launch and was set to carry nine spacecraft into low Earth orbit (LEO). Launch failure occurred at some point during the firing of the rocket’s second stage engine and the mission did not achieve final orbit.
The Prometheus-2 cubesats were each the size of a cereal box and owned by Dstl on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, and co-funded by Airbus Defence and Space who designed them jointly with In-Space Missions.
The Prometheus-2 cubesats had a mass of 8.5kg and measured just 30cm X 20cm X 10cm. They were built by In-Space Missions to provide a test platform for sophisticated Earth imaging and radio signal monitoring (including GPS), paving the way for a more collaborative and connected space communication system with the UK’s combat allies. The cubesats each had separate equipment installed to test future concepts in support of the MOD’s ISTARI programme for future space-based intelligence and surveillance.
Cubesat 1 carried a hyperspectral imager and GPS receiver and Cubesat 2 carried two optical imaging cameras and a GPS receiver. Common to both spacecraft were remotely programmable payloads, through which all satellite instruments could be commanded, and utilising modern Software Defined Radio technology, the payloads would enable third party organisations to use the Prometheus 2 constellation to research or demonstrate techniques such as:
- Geolocation (of radiating entities)
- Space Domain Awareness
- In-orbit data processing (including AI)
- Interference monitoring
- Signal Gathering
- Alternate Navigation
- Inter-Satellite Communications
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About In-Space Missions
Founded in 2015, In-Space Missions are world class experts who design, build and operate physical and digital space missions for global customers from our UK site in Alton, Hampshire. We design manufacture, integrate and test a range of satellites from 1U cubesats up to 150kg small satellites, providing full end-to-end capabilities to customers including payload development support; integration of payloads into the spacecraft; system testing; licensing; launch; commissioning; on-orbit operations; secure data delivery; and everything in-between. We also offer ‘Space as a Service’ through our InSpace Digital service and the world’s first commercial service offering long-life, low-cost, hosted-payload and uploadable payload flight opportunities.
In-Space Missions Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of BAE Systems Ltd
About Dstl – The science inside UK defence and security
The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory delivers high impact science and technology for the UK’s defence, security and prosperity.
Dstl is an Executive Agency of the MoD with around 4,800 staff working across 3 sites: Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Alverstoke, near Gosport.
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