UK Space Command

UK Space Command is the Defence lead for space operations, space workforce, and space capability. It’s a Joint Command, staffed by personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force, alongside civil servants and contractors.

Why is space important?

The UK has been operating in space routinely since 1969 and continuously since 1988. Daily lives around the world rely on satellites and systems in space, and they also underpin military operations across the sea, land, air, and cyber domains. Disruption to the space domain could lead to significant consequences for civilian, commercial, and economic activity, as well as the Armed Forces’ ability to undertake many Defence tasks.

Space is a harsh and increasingly competitive domain, including an increasing range of threats and hazards. Responsible actors in the space domain also face nefarious activity, as hostile actors and competitors seek to maximise their relative advantage in the domain. UK Space Command’s mission is to protect and defend UK and allied interests in, from, and to space.

A satellite.

UK Space Command formation and structure

UK Space Command is the Defence lead for space operations, space workforce, and space capability. It’s a Joint Command, based at RAF High Wycombe, and staffed by personnel from the Royal Navy, British Army, and Royal Air Force, alongside civil servants, and contractors.

UK Space Command brings together three functions under a single two-star military Commander: Delivering day-to-day space operations, growing and training Defence’s space workforce, and developing and delivering space equipment programmes. It is unique within Defence for a single Command to have responsibility for operations, workforce, and capability, but this allows the Command to operate independently and dynamically through requirement setting to capability and operational delivery.

UK Space Command has close links to Strategic Command and Dstl, specifically in capability growth and capitalising on the rich pedigree of research and development expertise that exists within UK Defence. UK Space Command also works with the UK Space Agency to deliver joint national space capability, as part of the National Space Strategy.

Following its formation in 2021, UK Space Command’s capabilities and workforce have rapidly grown to encompass command of RAF Fylingdales and the UK Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe.

UK Space Operations Centre

The UK Space Operations Centre, based at RAF High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, monitors the space domain 24/7, 365 days a year, seeking to protect, defend, and assure access to the on-orbit assets and dependencies of the UK and its allies.

The UK Space Operations Centre was established in 2008, as an evolution of the UK’s Missile Warning Centre. Today, it is also UK Defence’s operational level command and control unit for space, providing space support for UK military operations across all domains. Personnel collate, analyse, and assess space information to provide comprehensive space support to UK and allied military forces.

Military space analysts, and civilian analysts from the UK Space Agency, work side by side within the UK Space Operations Centre to monitor the safety of UK satellites and track orbital events, such as potential satellite collisions and the re-entry of objects into the Earth’s atmosphere. Analysts use data from a variety of sources, including data from RAF Fylingdales in North Yorkshire.

RAF Fylingdales

RAF Fylingdales, in North Yorkshire, provides a missile warning and space surveillance capability for the UK and its allies. Personnel at RAF Fylingdales work 24/7, 365 days a year.

RAF Fylingdales is the UK’s primary military space sensor, providing data to the UK Space Operations Centre at RAF High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. Alongside the UK Space Operations Centre, it is one of the two founding units of UK Space Command.

RAF Fylingdales is a joint enterprise between the United States and the United Kingdom. It was first declared operational in September 1963. Today, it is the only three-faced radar, providing 360°coverage, within the US-led Space Surveillance Network. Its radar can detect objects the size of a drinks can up to 3,000 miles into space.

A grey building against a pink sky.

Skynet satellite communications

SKYNET is a world-leading family of military communications satellites, currently operated for the Ministry of Defence, that provides strategic communication services to the UK Armed Forces and allies. SKYNET 5 is the most recent generation of this family.

The SKYNET Enduring Capability programme will deliver the next era of satellite communications to the MOD using new space assets and a way to monitor and control them. These assets will also be supported by additional commercial services to provide a reliable and robust communications service.

International collaboration

Collaboration with international partners is key in space. UK Space Command works closely with the UK’s partner nations in the Combined Space Operations Initiative, Five Eyes, NATO, and other bilateral relationships.

The Command also contributes to the US-led space coalition under Operation OLYMPIC DEFENDER, including operational level space command and control, missile warning, and increased space domain awareness.

UK Space Command Senior Military Official

Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey OBE

The Commander of UK Space Command is Air Vice-Marshal Paul Godfrey.

Paul Godfrey joined the RAF in 1991 and has been a fighter pilot most of his career. A former Station Commander at RAF Lossiemouth, most recently he was responsible for the planning and employment of coalition air and space power across the Middle East within the US Air Force Combined Air and Space Operations Centre.

Published 1 April 2021
Last updated 31 August 2023 + show all updates
  1. 'Related content' section updated.

  2. Webpage updated with most recent information about UK Space Command.

  3. Added a link to article "Commander US Space Command holds first visit to UK Space Command" under Related content.

  4. Added content link under heading 'Related content'.

  5. First published.