Concept art of a Galileo satellite

UK commits £92m to fund its own satellite navigation system

Image credit: Pierre Carril/ESA/PA Wire

The UK government will spend £92m on funding an alternative satellite navigation system to the EU’s Galileo programme, Prime Minister Theresa May has said.

In June the UK was shut out of the Galileo project (pictured) following concerns over security clearance and its impending exit from the EU. It is now treated like any other non-EU (“third”) country and will have “observer” status on key decisions relating to the project.

May said the UK will withdraw all support for Galileo unless it receives assurances of close collaboration post-Brexit, adding: “This is not an idle threat to achieve our negotiating objectives.”

The government will conduct an 18-month engineering, design and development project, which will result in a technical assessment and schedule for a UK system.

The system will be led by the UK Space Agency with support from the Ministry of Defence.

It is intended to be used by civilians while providing encrypted signals for high-security uses and be compatible with the US GPS system.

British technology has been instrumental in Galileo’s development so far, and London has been angered by moves to shut British companies out of the project before Brexit next year. The EU has said it is honouring the existing laws.

It has also been the source of a major row between Britain, the European Space Agency and European Commission over the level of access the UK will have to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) – a navigation and timing signal intended for use by government agencies, armed forces and emergency services.

“We are investing in an alternative option to Galileo to ensure our future security needs are met using the UK’s world-leading space sector,” Business Secretary Greg Clark said on Wednesday.

“Our position on Galileo has been consistent and clear. We have repeatedly highlighted the specialist expertise we bring to the project and the risks in time delays and cost increases that the European Commission is taking by excluding UK industry.”

The money will be allocated from the £3bn fund to prepare for Brexit.

In July the government announced funding for vertical and horizontal spaceports that will be constructed in the UK under new plans designed to boost the UK’s domestic space industry. 

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