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DSEI 2023: First Azalea satellite cluster set for launch in early 2025

14th September 2023 - 13:30 GMT | by Damian Kemp in London


Azalea is designed to provide a complete C4ISR capability. (Image: BAE Systems)

The first four multi-sensor Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites forming the first cluster of Azalea will be launched in early 2025 as part of a BAE Systems effort to demonstrate capability to the UK government and other potential customers.

Each Azalea cluster consists of four satellites with a satellite dedicated to SAR, cluster computing, radio frequency sending and receiving and the final satellite for optical imagery.

While led by BAE Systems the effort is supported by satellite manufacturer ICEYE and system design company Inspace.

Dedicated to C2, surveillance and navigation Azalea could ultimately consist of a constellation of 12 clusters but a single cluster, operating at an altitude of 500km, could be directed to provide support for any global area.

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The company pointed to the combined capability in a single constellation as a key attribute and highlighted the functionality of the SAR satellite to provide all-weather and day/night surveillance.

The effort is company-funded but the focus is on the UK MoD’s £970 million ($1.2 billion) ISTARI programme which was launched in 2022. ISTARI was described when it was announced as putting ‘in place the foundations of a next-generation constellation of ISR in LEO’ but Azalea is designed to prove the benefits of extending that requirement.

Describing the Azalea cluster as ‘an iPhone in the sky, providing communications and cameras as well as being upgradable’, a BAE Systems official said the company’s size meant it had been able to avoid supply chain issues impacting on the programme and had also been able to support other companies involved in the design. 

ICEYE itself recently launched four satellites and will launch another four shortly.

The future of the system is dependent on customer interest in what is achieved by the first cluster but it could be owned and operated by a government, owned by the government with the companies operating or owned by the companies and tasked by governments.

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Damian Kemp


Damian Kemp

Damian Kemp has worked in the defence media for 25 years covering military aircraft, defence …

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