The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has awarded a contract to Paradigm to extend and enhance services on the Skynet 5D satellite programme.

Under the £400m ($598m) contract, the subsidiary of Astrium Services will manufacture, launch, test and operate the UK’s fourth military satellite, Skynet 5D, extending the Skynet 5 contract by two years to 2022.

The MoD will use the Skynet 5D satellite, which is around three times the length of a double-decker bus, for intelligence gathering on operations.

In addition, the satellite will be used to provide telephone and internet welfare support facilities for service personnel on operations.

Minister for Defence Equipment and Support Quentin Davies said future operations would require UK Armed Forces to be given access to the best possible communications and this new satellite would go a long way to ensuring this.

The Skynet 5 satellites feature the highest powered X-band transponders in orbit, a highly flexible uplink beam configuration, coupled with an anti-jamming antenna to ensure that the constellation is extremely effective against hostile or non-hostile interference.

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The 5D payload is optimised to improve performance for small, rapidly deployable satellite ground terminals on land, sea or air, and all the downlink beams of the satellite are fully steerable.

Skynet 5D satellite will be launched in 2013.