UK Space Agency Leads Work on Options for Independent Satellite System

SWINDON, UK (UKSA PR) — The UK Government has confirmed today it is developing options for a British Global Navigation Satellite System.

Led by the UK Space Agency, a task force of Government specialists and industry will work quickly to develop options that will provide both civilian and encrypted signals and be compatible with the GPS system.

The UK is already a world-leader in developing satellite technology, building 40 per cent of the world’s small satellites and one in four commercial telecommunications satellites.

UK companies have made a critical contribution to the EU Galileo programme, building the payloads for the satellites and developing security systems. The task force will draw on this experience and expertise as it develops plans for an innovative system that could deliver on the UK’s security needs and provide commercial services.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said:

This task force will develop options for an independent satellite navigation system using the world-beating expertise of Britain’s thriving space sector. We have made our position clear to the European Commission and highlighted the importance of the UK to the Galileo programme.

It is now right that we explore alternative options to ensure our security needs are met as we continue to take full advantage of the opportunities that exist in the global space sector, through our modern Industrial Strategy.

Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of UK Space Agency said:

As the Government has made clear, we should begin work now on options for a national alternative to Galileo to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future. The UK Space Agency is well placed to lead this work and will use a wide-range of expertise from across the space, engineering and security sectors.

The UK will be able to use Galileo’s open signal in the future, and British Armed Forces and emergency services were due to have access to the encrypted system when it is fully operational.

The Government has been clear there is a mutual benefit to the UK remaining involved in Galileo and is working hard to deliver this. Without the assurance that UK industry can collaborate on an equal basis and without continued access to the necessary security-related information, the UK could be obliged to end its participation in the project.

The Business Secretary Greg Clark wrote to the Commission last month expressing concern about its intention to exclude the UK from the secure elements of Galileo. The UK Space Agency has been engaging regularly with the UK companies involved and will now lead the work to develop potential alternative options.

The recent Blackett review estimated that a failure of navigation satellite service could cost the UK economy £1 billion a day. Resilient and secure position, navigation and timing information is increasingly essential for defence, critical national infrastructure and emergency response.

The UK Space Agency is driving the growth of the space sector as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy with major initiatives including the National Space Test Facility at Harwell, and the UK continues to be a leading member of the European Space Agency, which is independent of the EU.

New figures released today by the ADS Group trade body show that in 2017 the UK space industry was worth around £15 billion a year in turnover, with exports of £5.4 billion and 71 percent growth since 2012.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Since Britain can use the American GPS system I am sceptical about this British project. They will have to make a very strong business case.

    Can this do anything that GPS cannot do? For instance:
    * work in the valleys between mountains?
    * allow the UK to communicate with its ships at sea?
    * work on the Moon and Mars? (Extra satellites in lunar and Mars orbits needed.)

  • Mike Richards

    Is this going to come out of the £350 million savings the Brexiteers promised on the side of the bus?

  • Michael Halpern

    Actually there’s a simpler case, “can it be used to compliment American GPS (and possibly Galileo) for faster more accurate positioning using beams from multiple constellations?”

  • Paul Thomas

    the billions that we won’t be paying to the EU every year, will not be available until we actually leave in 2019. After that it will be up to the UK government to decide where it is spent and not the EU.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    If that is the bast case they can produce then it is grounds for the British Government to cancel the satellite project. Just buy Japanese GPS receivers.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not really, there is steadily increasing demand for more and better GPS capability, think about all the devices that have GPS chips

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    not to mention the billions of EU subsidies and trade advantage that the UK will not be receiving. Yes, the UK government will decide how the next generation will pay for the brexit disaster.

  • Paul Thomas

    I’m talking net here. We contribute billions more per annum than we receive back in grants.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    Will the chip makers pay commission to the GPS satellite operators for a more accurate signal?
    I do not think so. So unless the military need it Britain will make a loss on this program.

  • Michael Halpern

    The profit isn’t direct, it’s considered infrastructure, like roads, the GPS, Galileo and proposed UK GPS are considered shared infrastructure between the operating countries and their allies, when GPS was opened up to civilian use it generated massive economic growth, this is maintaining and enhancing that

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Do we?. Where did you read that, on the side of a lying xenophobic bus I presume?. Not to mention the good work done by Cambridge Analytica.
    We will soon find out what life is like without all the advantages of being an isolated nation rather than a member of a common market. How much it is worth to have free access to markets, free travel across borders, collaboration with ESA, involvement with Galileo,…………

  • Paul Thomas

    http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-7886/CBP-7886.pdf
    That’s £8 billion net in four years, we are the second biggest contributor to the EU budget.
    There are many countries that participate with the EU on ESA projects. Canada and Russia are examples. Also countries can be a member of ESA without being in the EU.

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    The British system would be competing with the US GPS. Few people need higher accuracy. Those that do will buy US designed receivers, probably made in Asia. So making the project a guaranteed loss.

  • Michael Halpern

    It is using GPS/Galileo compatible chips, and it isn’t about profit, it’s about trade, and politics.

    GPS doesnt make money on it’s own it promotes trade. This is complimenting that

  • Andrew_M_Swallow

    GPS is about getting explosives to the target. There is a civilian side that gets cars to their destination. The civilian chips and equipment are made in Asia. IMHO The next generation car navigation equipment will use the US standard and be built in Asia.

    There is no trade promotion by a British system. That is just a waste of money and will prevent the people doing something that may make a profit.

  • Michael Halpern

    actually a lot of the chips are built in the US, and elsewhere other than Asia semiconductor production is one of the least region locked industries out there

  • mlc449

    Such hypocrisy from the Brits as usual. When the EU launched Galileo years ago the UK press (many of them ardent Brexiteers) called it a waste of money and moaned that there was no need for such a system since the US already provided GPS. So……what’s changed Blighty?

    Next you’ll be hearing calls for a “Royal Space Navy” or some such nonsense from the “Empire 2.0” maniacs. Yes, these lot actually think it’s possible to return to Empire. Nuts!