The first attempt of the UK to establish an independent and secure space-based communications systems faltered in 1969-1970 when Skynet 1A failed prematurely and Skynet 1B was lost in a launch malfunction. The Skynet 1 spacecraft were of American manufacture.
Skynet 1A was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on 22 November 1969 into a geostationary orbit and it was followed less than a year later by Skynet 1B to provide secure communications to the armed forces via voice – and also by fax and even telegraph. Providing only two voice channels from a satellite about the same size as a small fridge, these first Skynet satellites are now superseded by a fleet of four Skynet 5 satellites weighing more than 6 tonnes at launch and each as big as a large delivery van. The average power of a Skynet 5 satellite is 4.7 kW which is approximately the same as a typical UK home.
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