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Skynet 2

In the UK, Milsatcom got off the ground in 1969, with SKYNET 1 (the world's first geostationary defence communications satellite), followed in 1973/4 by the SKYNET 2 series. These satellites operated at SHF (8/7 GHz), and each spin-stabilised satellite provided two wide bandwidth channels, with a single 16 W travelling-wave tube amplifier; earth coverage was provided by a simple de-spun horn and plane reflector. The satellite design was based on the INTELSAT III bus.

Whereas the Skynet 1 spacecraft were American-made, the Skynet 2 series which appeared in 1974 were designed and manufactured by the British firm of Marconi Space and Defense Systems with assistance from Philco-Ford. Skynet 2A was lost in an unsuccessful launch attempt in January, 1974. However, the spin-stabilized, 240-kg Skynet 2B was orbited in November, 1974, and provided regular service for more than 18 years. The spacecraft was still functioning as it neared its 20th anniversary in space (References 415-416).

The Skynet II-B spacecraft was built for the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defence. It was placed in an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 36,950 kilometers (22,960 miles) and perigee of 185 km (115 miles). At an appropriate time — probably as early as the first apogee some 5.8 hours after launch — a solid rocket motor on the spacecraft will inject it into its 35,786-km (22,400-mi.) circular synchronous orbit. A hydrazine control system handled relatively minor orbital anomalies and keep the satellite on its station over the equator at 50 E. longitude The spacecraft was developed by Marconi Space and Defence Systems Ltd. in the United Kingdom and McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., Huntington Beach, Calif, is the prime contractor for the Delta vehicle and launch services. The Skynet 2 system was very successful for its time, and remained in service for several years beyond the timeframe originally planned.

Skynet 2 stimulated the development of mobile receivers, especially for use by the Royal Navy. Prototype ‘Manpack’ ground terminals developed for experimental use by Royal Signal and Radar Establishment on the UK MoD Skynet satellite communication system, manufactured by Ferranti Limited, Poynton, Cheshire, England, 1980-1989. This 'Manpack' is transportable communications devices, often used for military purposes. It was developed for experimental use by the Royal Signal and Radar Establishment in the 1980s for military communications. It also led to the development of the PSC 405 manpacks, which were in operational use until around 2000. This pack was used with the UK's Skynet satellite communications system. During the First Gulf War it would have been used alongside the military communications system Ptarmigan, providing a flexible communications solution for rapidly changing operations.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2020 09:44:16 ZULU