space satellite

UK reliance on foreign satellites risks ‘economic blackout’

Britain could risk an “economic blackout” due to its heavy reliance on foreign satellites, the chairman of UKspace has said.

Analysis by the trade body representing the UK’s space sector found that at least 90 per cent of the data sent through satellite services relies on those sent up by other nations including the US and other European countries.

In a report to be published next week, UKspace will show how much civilian dependency there is on foreign-built satellites which the UK has little ability to defend in the event of an attack.

It follows the acquisition of satellite constellation firm OneWeb by the UK Government last week for which it will have a final say over any future sale of the company and will be able to control access to OneWeb technology by other countries on national security grounds.

“Data from satellites has become so critical to our everyday lives that even a temporary disruption would cause an economic blackout of frightening proportions,” said Nick Shave, chairman of UKspace.

“Investing in our own national capabilities is essential for our future security, but also an opportunity to create new jobs in the UK, driving a stronger recovery across the country.”

Since leaving the EU, the UK’s space sector has had to contend with its removal from the Galileo satellite navigation and positioning programme.

UKspace says the UK spends less on space than other countries and only about 5 per cent of the 2,600 satellites in orbit today are UK-registered.

Darren Jones, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, said: “For the UK to be a major space power the Prime Minister urgently needs to announce Britain’s post-Brexit space policy.

“From the purchase of OneWeb to the announcement on military space capacity, it’s clear the Government maintains an interest in space but our space strategy is currently far from coherent.

“From skills and jobs and international research collaboration to British manufacturing and the question of Britain’s own sovereign positioning system, we still have more questions than answers.

“This report is therefore welcome and timely and I hope the Prime Minister and his Government will take action to address its findings.”

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles