The development of a new generation of pioneering British deployable satellite antennas has been boosted following a £1m MoD investment, according to the department.

According to a news release, the ‘wrapped rib’ antenna is lighter, less complex and more cost-competitive than those currently available commercially.

“The antenna will be exclusively developed in the UK by Oxford Space Systems (OSS). It will make the UK the first European country with the capability of a flight-proven parabolic deployable antenna. The lighter weight of the ‘wrapped-rib’ antenna means it can be transported to space more efficiently at less expense. This is critical in an industry where launch costs are high.”

The MoD funding will assist OSS to increase the antenna’s size and its performance to meet the needs of defence.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“I have been clear that we need to accelerate the development of new, innovative capabilities – especially those in the space domain. It is vital that we have homegrown affordable technologies like this pioneering deployable satellite antenna to maintain a commanding military advantage over our adversaries and competitors.”

OSS Senior Commercial Strategist, Shefali Sharma said:

“This contract represents a considerable stamp of endorsement by the UK Government for OSS on the global stage. The funding allows us to create high value employment in the space sector and grow our team of experts at our Harwell base. We can now focus on maturing the ‘wrapped rib’ antenna toward on-orbit demonstration.

We view our antenna technology as a key enabler for the next-generation of communications and SAR services from orbit. The antenna is highly scalable and tunable and has been specifically designed for volume production, targeting smallsat constellations. As such, it’s suitable for a range of commercial opportunities not only here in the UK, but globally too. Our doors are open to international trade and we are excited about where future partnerships will take us.”

Head of DASA, Lucy Mason said:

“Our work with OSS ticks all DASA’s objectives, not only did we provide the initial stimulus to establish this partnership, but it will also open up opportunities for truly cross government collaboration, with the potential to meet the needs of both our defence and security customers. Additionally, the project will contribute to UK prosperity by creating jobs and increasing export opportunities. This is exactly why DASA exists.”

The new antenna will be used to meet the needs of fine-resolution Low Earth Orbit Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery. SAR permits all weather Earth observation, irrespective of time of day or night.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Lots of good news on space and other innovative ideas. Not always big money but British ideas. What we are going to need in the years to come. A re-emerging Britain leading a science revolution.

  2. Good news so how are the MOD going to pay for this, and other new projects recently announced? Apparently, the MOD has overspent to the tune of between 7-15 billion!! According to MP’s (some of whom don’t know one end of a gun from the other) have declared their dismay over the departments overspend.
    My initial reaction was, ‘SO!’ Sadly, all departments of government do need to be fiscally accountable, and if nothing is seen to be done to address the issue, nasty Philip will make sure there are amendments.
    What then needs to be trimmed……………………….?????????????

    • In fairness that ‘black hole’ was quoted as £20 Billion as recently as the middle of last year. The simple fact is this government could fill this gap with very little extra funding per year (circa £700 Million over the 10 year period) if they wished but won’t as they are as jaw droppingly indifferent on defence as every other main political party in this country.

      If Osbourne (or as I like to call him – Bollock Chops) hadn’t shoehorned CASD into the MOD’s budget completely under the radar then we simply wouldnt be in this situation.

      • That being said… the MOD do seem to handle their affairs, spending and contracts quite poorly, although I’m sure government meddling in delaying projects doesn’t help… they due need to be subject to scrutiny and be pushed for continual improvement…

      • That’s Mr Bollock Chops.

        The sad reason defence doesn’t appear high on most parties agendas is that its not that an emotive subject / vote winner ( CASD aside).
        Higher Benefits = votes
        Better NHS=votes
        Cheap houses= votes
        Immigration = votes. ( for or against).
        Extra squadron or ship. Who cares.

        • There is a grain of truth in what you say. Look at Philip Hammond, when Defence Minister the only focus was attempting to raise the MOD budget. However, today his attention is elsewhere, worst still, he knows all the tricks so can’t be hogwashed over budgets? The sad fact is defence is just another play pit along the road to Chancellor or foreign secretary, and possible leadership? Until that internal career path is changed government departments, will continue their individual modus Operandi. Another issue that the MOD has to deal with, is the old hot potato, ‘What enemy? I can’t see no ships.’ Let us hope if Trump makes it through to a second term, he might just take a big axe to US support for NATO, thus elevating defence to a focus point where the Cabinet can no longer ignore it?

  3. I don’t think we have over spent yet. Its the difference between the MOD funding and their spending commitments over the next number of years most of the shortfall has come from the drop in Sterling which makes F35, Poseidon and other imported equipment more expensive than previously planned.
    If this brexit business gets sorted Sterline will rebound and reduce a good bit of this funding shortfall

    • MoD had a black hole before Brexit ever appeared. In 2010 the Tories wrecked the military in SDSR 2010 trying to balance the mess the previous lot created. Even then Hammond claimed the hole had been filled. Then HMG proceeded to reduce spending year on year, while committing to big ticket projects, all the while defence inflation creeps ever upwards, and the hole re appears.

      One look at the ten year MoD Equipment budget allocation per TLB holder shows the elephant in the room.

      Submarines – 40 Billion or something if I remember correctly.

      As Rfn above correctly says. This has utterly hamstrung MoD more than any fluctuations in Sterling, which I believe have settled to what they were?

      Buying kit at affordable prices will also reduce the shortfall. We’ve been here before and I have argued for years for a better balance between quality and quantity, then I am shot down in flames by people wanting all T26 and no cheaper alternatives alongside the top end.

      Then people scratch heads wondering where the money went, at billion pound frigates, 3 River 2’s at eye watering amounts, half a billion at Marham to build some buildings and resurface runway and other areas. The list is endless if one wants to make one of what the UK pays.

      Home build always rears its head in this debate too. Would we have built those Tides in the UK for the price we got?

      And before I get shot down for that I agree with home build and benefits to wider UK PLC. Does not help the MoD budget though.

      • Another issue with regard to the defence budget is the amount of money idiots with no concept of the real world spanner away with no consequences to anyone doing the spannering! Government all over really though.

  4. The defence budget deficit assumes that all risks manifest. That’s an unrealistic and almost dangerous assumption to make. I work in transportation, not defence, but regularly engage in complex risk assessment exercises on huge projects in America. We would never get anything done if we assumed that all risks would manifest. In reality, projects are funded according to an assumption that some risks will manifest. In our case, the standard is cost plus 20%, although it’s not always exactly that number. UK defence programs are generally running at or just over cost – all risks are not manifesting and likely never will. I don’t believe that there is a real issue at all.

    • Interesting, I’ve never heard that before. Why doesn’t the MOD or the treasury come out and say that?! It’d prevent an awful lot of hand wringing and concern, and let some proper resource planning to be made! If their £15 B black hole includes the £10 B contingency for the Dreadnought programme, for example, then that knocks 2/3 of the black whole out of the way immediately. My understanding is that this project is currently more-or-less on track, with early spending increased to save costs over the lifetime.

    • Aye but stating in advance that we are expecting a £20 Billion… £12 Billion… £7 Billion BLACK HOLE (notice they use black hole as an analogy of something CANNOT be filled – as opposed to funding gap) allows the Government to force cuts before they are actually needed and WHAM… more hidden cuts.

      Slimey weasels the lot of them.

  5. Yes – but you could be charitable and say that they are being ultra-conservative. The key thing to note is that defence programme management is now far more efficient than it once was. It would be very surprising if all risks were to manifest. It’s unreasonable to present an unlikely scenario as truth in order to justify restraining defence spending.

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