• Operational traffic for UK MoD worldwide on Skynet 5A and 5B
  • HMS Illustrious using Skynet 5B for Welfare and operational communications

The first operational traffic was carried successfully on Skynet 5B at 05:00 on 28 January 2008 - one month earlier than originally planned. Skynet 5B was launched on an Ariane 5 launcher on 9 November 2007 from Kourou, French Guiana.

Skynet 5B delivers an increased capability for both secure voice and data traffic and is already being used by HMS Illustrious.

Skynet 5B is the second of three satellites that will form a new constellation under a PFI deal with the UK MoD that will run until 2020. Skynet 5B was moved into its prime orbital location at 53°E to provide satellite communications support for the UK MOD's current deployments.  The third satellite Skynet 5C will act as an in-orbit spare.

Malcolm Peto, Managing Director of Paradigm, said: "This is another major step forward for Skynet 5, our second satellite offers significantly increased power and flexibility compared to Skynet 4 and will extend the coverage and range of services available to the MoD and other customers. It is a tribute to the Paradigm, Astrium Satellites and MoD teams that the satellite has been introduced into operational service one month early against a committed delivery date set almost 10 years ago."

Skynet 5 is the groundbreaking next generation military satellite communications programme to provide end-to-end, resilient, secure Beyond Line of Site communications services, including welfare, to the UK MoD and other non-UK MoD and multinational customers until 2020.

The programme provides delivery of information services between the UK's Defence Fixed Network and in theatre networks and users.  Secure communications services will be delivered by the owner and operator, Paradigm, who are part of Telecom Services, a business division of Astrium Services.  The system, including the satellites, was designed and built by Chamber member, Astrium Satellites.

Astrium, a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS, is dedicated to providing civil and defence space systems and services. In 2006, Astrium had a turnover of €3.2 billion and 12,000 employees in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands. Its three main areas of activity are: Astrium Space Transportation for launchers and orbital infrastructure, Astrium Satellites for spacecraft and ground segment, and its wholly owned subsidiary Astrium Services for the development and delivery of satellite services.  Paradigm is a wholly owned subsidiary of Astrium Services.

EADS is a global leader in aerospace, defence and related services.  In 2006, EADS generated revenues of €39.4 billion and employed a workforce of more than 116, 000.