In-Space Missions will build Titania, a smallsat to test space-to-ground optical communications. Credit: DSTL

WASHINGTON — British smallsat developer In-Space Missions has won a contract from the U.K. Ministry of Defence to build a satellite to test optical communications.

The Ministry of Defence and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) announced Aug. 9 that it awarded In-Space Missions a contract valued at 9.5 million pounds ($13.2 million) for the Titania Operational Concept Demonstrator. The small satellite will test space-to-ground laser communications, which offers the potential for transferring data at rates of several gigabits per second.

“The Titania space mission will accelerate the development and adoption of space-based optical communications, allowing our armed forces the ability to operate in an increasingly contested environment,” Mike O’Callaghan, space program manager at DSTL, said in a British government statement.

Titania will be built by In-Space Missions and support 20 jobs at the company. The spacecraft is scheduled for launch in 2023, but the British government did not disclose launch plans for the satellite.

Titania will be based on the Faraday bus developed by In-Space Missions. “Having the tremendous opportunity to work with DSTL on Titania is inspirational for the In-Space team,” the company said. “We’re delighted to be able to apply our flexible, high-performance Faraday bus technology to this challenging mission.”

The first Faraday spacecraft reached orbit June 30 with the launch of Faraday Phoenix on the SpaceX Transporter-2 rideshare mission. The company developed the Faraday bus to serve as a platform for hosted payloads, with six customers for that mission as well as an internal payload, Babel, for radio-frequency mapping. A second mission, Faraday-2, is scheduled for launch in the fourth quarter.

Faraday Phoenix, though, was not the first company spacecraft to launch. The original Faraday spacecraft was among the satellites lost in a July 2020 failure of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. Some of the customer payloads lost on that spacecraft were reflown on Faraday Phoenix.

Titania is part of a broader emphasis on new space capabilities for the British military. The Ministry of Defence plans to invest 1.4 billion pounds into what it broadly defines as “next-generation technology” for space systems over the next decade.

The contract also comes shortly after the formal opening July 30 of the headquarters of U.K. Space Command at RAF High Wycombe. The command, established in April, is designed to ultimately handle command and control of all British military space capabilities.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...