Airbus is celebrating 50 years of providing secure military satellite communications to the UK with the 50th anniversary of the first Skynet satellite.

Skynet 1A was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on the 22nd of 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only two voice channels from a satellite about the same size as a small fridge, these first Skynet satellites are now superseded by a fleet of four Skynet 5 satellites weighing more than 6 tonnes at launch and each as big as a large delivery van.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.

According to Airbus:

“In the 50 years since the launch of the first Skynet Airbus has built 25 military communications satellites for the defence ministries around the world. Two Skynet 2 satellites were launched in 1974, one failed due to a rocket motor problem on the satellite, but Skynet 2B provided services for more than 20 years.

The follow on generation was Skynet 4, with six satellites providing global secure communications. Designed to operate in geostationary orbit for 15 years and still providing coverage today. Skynet 4 is the longest serving satellite constellation at 29 years old and continues to deliver vital communications. Skynet 5 is the current satellite series and for the past 16 years, Airbus has been responsible for delivering all secure beyond line of sight communications to the UK MOD, owning and operating the four strong fleet. During that time Skynet 5 satellites have been crucial to keeping armed forces in theatre in touch with each other and bases back in the UK.

And the satellites also provide a key part of service personnel being able to keep in touch with loved ones back home as part of the WelComE service.”

Airbus is now looking at the next generation – Skynet 6.

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Will Skynet take over the world one day?


According to the movie it became self-aware at 2:14 a.m., EDT, on August 29, 1997 so I’m sure it’s working on it.

Andy P

Typical of the Yanks to steal the glory eh ? Due to cutbacks its been put back to 2027. Unless there are more cutbacks…

We’re still waiting on the phased plasma rifles (in the 40W range) FFS !!!!

David Flandry

{Julian has been deleted}


I’ll be back….

David Flandry

{I hate it when that happens}


There was a big army exhibition in 1969 called armex69, which featured a biggish stand about the forthcoming Skynet system. 50 years !

Steve R

I can guarantee one person who won’t be celebrating Skynet’s 50th birthday: Sarah Connor!


Airbus did not exist 50 years ago.
Marconi built the original sats before being taken over.
They have come a longway from the Sat’s I knew when I joined in 81 to what we had 30 years later
Now you have 8+ megs, multiple voice, telephone, data video links and at one point even BFBS was on it, known as jerky TV due to the small bandwidth.

Rob N

If Airbus are responsible for our communications does this not make us vulnerable to EU tinkering post Brexit? Please tell me tgat we have sovereign control of these assets…

James M

Even if we are vulnerable to it, we’re still going to be closely allied with the EU when it comes to defence.

On a more capitalistic note, Airbus won’t dare do any “tinkering” because they know if it ever got out they’d struggle to get contracts from outside the EU for the rest of time.


Dreadful name!