COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –The United Kingdom would like to increase its level of satellite communications (SATCOM) partnership with the United States, though nothing has been formalized, according to the head of the U.S.’ space efforts.

Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) chief Gen. William Shelton told reporters May 20 here at the National Space Symposium the United Kingdom might like some sort of “reserve”-like capability that would be available on-demand. But Shelton warned that no contracts have been signed and that this arrangement could develop over the “next year or so.”


“There have been exploratory talks, and I’ve been in some of those, but I don’t think we’re at the point of saying ‘Here’s what’s going to happen,’” Shelton said.

Shelton also said NATO is interested in furthering its SATCOM capability. The U.K.’s SATCOM constellation is known as Skynet 5 and is developed by Airbus Defence and Space, a division of Airbus. The U.K. Ministry of Defence is procuring SATCOM services from Airbus Defence and Space up to at least 2022. The Skynet 5 constellation is comprised of four spacecraft as well as a major upgrade of the fixed terrestrial infrastructure, networks and management systems in the United Kingdom.

Skynet 5A was launched in March 2007, 5B in November 2007, and 5C in June 2008. Skynet 5D is under production, according to Airbus Defence and Space.

The Air Force has been touting its international partnership on its Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite constellation. Canada, Australia and New Zealand have invested in the WGS fleet that provides worldwide flexible, high data rate and long-haul non-protected communications. The Air Force in August launched WGS-6, the first purchased by Australia and the third, and final, spacecraft in the program’s Block II series.

Along with WGS-6, Australia’s $700 million investment in WGS also constructed two remote monitoring and control stations to assist in payload management and tracking of WGS satellites. Boeing [BA] is prime contractor for WGS.