Space Archaeology

"our future is in ruins"

Skynet 1A

Skynet 1A was the first of the Skynet family of British military communication satellites. The satellite was a 422 kilogram spin-stabilised cylinder (a “spinner”), 810 mm high and 1370 mm in diameter with a despun antenna platform, built by Philco Ford/Ford Aerospace in the United States (later Skynet satellites were built in the United Kingdom).

The Skynet program was begun after Lord Mountbatten recommended that the three armed forces use a single method of communication, and the satellite was intended to provide secure voice, telegraph and fax. Two ships, Fearless and Intrepid were fitted with 2 metre dish stations to work with Skynet 1.

Launched on 22 November 1969 from Cape Canaveral aboard a Delta M rocket, Skynet 1A was the second geostationary military satellite, first geostationary military communication satellite and the third geostationary satellite.

Placed in orbit over the Indian Ocean to provide communication to forces in the Middle East (a secure link between Britain and Singapore?), it is believed to have operated for less than one year, seemingly because of a failed travelling wave tube amplifier.

Skynet 1A is still in orbit today, having drifted to the “geostationary graveyard” at 105 degrees west. It has a lifetime estimate of greater than one million years. The rocket body that launched it can also be tracked.

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