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Leading UK space industry consortium calls for greater SME engagement for future satcom services

·        Airbus, KBR, Leidos, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ invite for SMEs to join its ‘Open Innovation – Space’ initiative
·        Building on existing successful partnerships with UK Government to deliver future space solutions for UK including the Skynet Service Delivery Wrap
·        Committed to diversifying and growing the UK’s space industrial footprint


Stevenage, 16 June 2020 – The UK’s space industry leader Airbus, has teamed with KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ to bring new thinking to future space solutions and to launch the Open Innovation – Space initiative. The aim of Open Innovation – Space is to further increase SME involvement in UK future satellite communications services and space activities creating high value jobs and growth across the UK.

The consortium, comprising the UK leader in space and sovereign military satellite communication services, and leading defence companies in their fields, have extensive experience in mission critical communication services and associated space, ground and management segments. With proven track records of modernising defence services, the consortium partners already engage with many SMEs to serve government and commercial customers. Open Innovation – Space will look to significantly raise this SME engagement to accelerate regional recovery by broadening potential investment in novel solutions and ideas. Companies from across the UK are being encouraged to participate with a dedicated portal at www.openinnovationspace.uk to engage with the team.

Richard Franklin, Managing Director, Airbus Defence and Space UK said: “The space industry will play an increasingly important and visible role in the economic recovery of Britain, underpinning not only critical national infrastructure but also day to day services such as weather forecasting and satellite navigation. As space services and applications continue to expand and touch everyone’s lives even more, we are calling on SMEs to engage with us further to see how we can bring greater innovation and new ways of thinking in future satcom services to grow the UK’s space capability and industrial expertise.”

The consortium partners have been at the heart of the UK’s defence and space sector for more than 50 years having developed leading edge design, manufacturing, systems and service capabilities across the entire space domain.

Airbus in the UK is recognised as a global leader in the design and manufacture of advanced telecommunications satellites and is a trusted prime contractor for some of the most complex space science and exploration missions in the world. Airbus provides a range of space-based services to customers worldwide including the support of the UK Armed Forces, and its NATO Allies, by delivering and operating the Skynet military communications system, providing 24/7 services across the world for more than 15 years.

The consortium partners include leaders in modernising defence information technology systems as well as trusted providers of research, technology advice, products and mission rehearsal services. With proven capabilities to enable interoperability with allies, including the US, NATO, Five Eyes etc, the consortium share a vision of the future and a commitment to grow the UK’s industrial footprint through SME engagement.

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About Open Innovation - Space – Portal www.openinnovationspace.uk

Airbus Defence and Space

The Skynet 5 programme, managed by Airbus, has provided the UK MOD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. The programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012. Through the many years of Airbus delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satellite communications to UK forces delivering both operational and information advantage at the greatest time of need.


KBR is a global provider of differentiated professional services and technologies across the asset and program lifecycle within the Government Solutions and Energy sectors. Our global Government Solutions business, serves government customers globally, including capabilities that cover the full lifecycle of defense, space, aviation and other government programs and missions from research and development, through systems engineering, test and evaluation, program management, to operations, maintenance, and field logistics. Its Government Solution business within EMEA is a key partner to the UK Government supporting strategic, long term programmes such as Army basing and operations, nuclear decommissioning, military flying training and overseas contingency support. It also acts as a delivery partner integrating technologies and designing systems into solutions to meet client needs.


Leidos is a global science and technology company delivering innovative solutions and services for mission and safety critical applications in Space, Defence, Intelligence, Civil Government and Health.  With over 37,000 professionals, many with advanced qualifications and prior military service, we field the broad range of capabilities essential to deliver advantage in the information age. From enterprise digital modernisation and at-scale systems integration through development of maritime autonomous technologies and provision of military ISR as-a-service to deployed logistics and operations support. Whether it be system support in a local service-centre or providing life sustaining logistics at the ends of the Earth, Leidos personnel are deployed 24/7 in support of our customers - wherever their mission takes them.  

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman designs, develops, builds and supports some of the world’s most advanced products from next generation spacecraft and unrivalled cyber security systems, to cutting-edge aircraft and all-seeing radars.  The Northrop Grumman Space Systems sector provides end-to-end space capabilities for a broad range of customers, continuing a proud  legacy of supporting vital military space programmes with survivable, rapidly configurable systems, advanced threat detection and secure communications to win the future of space. Northrop Grumman employs over 750 people in the UK and is a long term partner to the MOD, providing and supporting a number of key defence capabilities.  The company works extensively to ensure that we offer our customer’s solutions that combine Northrop Grumman experience and knowledge with the innovation and creativity of the UK supplier community.


QinetiQ is a leading science and engineering company operating primarily in the defence, security and critical infrastructure markets, with the breadth and depth of more than 6,000 people, including more than 3,000 scientists and engineers. We work in partnership with our customers to solve real world problems through innovative solutions delivering operational and competitive advantage. QinetiQ and its predecessors have a long history of support to the UK Ministry of Defence on numerous complex and demanding programmes, including over 60 years of support to UK Government Space programmes such as Skynet. QinetiQ are trusted providers of research, technology, advice, products and services to civil, military and national security customers for secure satellite communications, secured navigation, Space weather and Earth observation.

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About Airbus

Airbus is a global leader in aeronautics, space and related services. In 2019, it generated revenues of € 70 billion and employed a workforce of around 135,000. Airbus offers the most comprehensive range of passenger airliners. Airbus is also a European leader providing tanker, combat, transport and mission aircraft, as well as one of the world’s leading space companies. In helicopters, Airbus provides the most efficient civil and military rotorcraft solutions worldwide.

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