The Daily Telegraph

BAE military satellite to search for missiles

- By Howard Mustoe

BAE SYSTEMS plans to launch a quartet of satellites into orbit featuring sensors designed to scour the skies for threats.

The move by Britain’s top defence company comes amid a flurry of tests by Russia and China of hypersonic missiles, which travel more than five times the speed of sound.

BAE is expanding its push into satellite engineerin­g after buying In-space Missions, which means it can design, build, launch and operate satellites.

The Azalea group of satellites will collect visual, radar and radio data to “boost the UK’S ability to understand the threats and hazards in, from and through space,” BAE said.

Heat signatures from rockets, missiles and jet engines can be detected by the sensors and packaged with other local data for analysis by the military.

A Russian bomber fired three Kinzhal Mach-12 hypersonic missiles at the port city of Odesa in May, the first known use of the weapon and the first claimed use of hypersonic arms in a war. It followed test launches in April and March.

China last year reportedly test-fired a hypersonic projectile, while in May a Russian warship successful­ly fired a Zircon cruise missile that can travel for almost 1,000 miles.

Typical missiles fly at about Mach 3. Hypersonic­s are defined as travelling at least Mach 5, about 3,800mph, or five times the speed of sound. As well as military applicatio­ns, BAE will also offer time with the Azalea satellites to businesses and government­s.

Doug Liddle, chief executive and cofounder of In-space Missions, said applicatio­ns included tracking illegal fishing in the Pacific Ocean and monitoring pirates off the coast of Africa.

The satellites will be in low Earth orbit, about 500km from the surface, and process data in situ using artificial intelligen­ce, sidesteppi­ng the timeconsum­ing process of sending terabytes of raw data to ground.

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