UK ministers are reportedly looking to revise plans for an independent satellite navigation system worth £5bln ($6.18 billion) that was touted in 2018 as an alternative to the EU’s Galileo project, reports the Financial Times.
Sources are cited by the outlet as suggesting ministers are studying a spate of options, one of which presupposes using OneWeb. The latter is a UK satellite operator that announced bankruptcy in March, and has since reportedly offered to move its satellite production from Florida to Britain if its bid gains support from the UK government.
In 2018 the then prime minister Theresa May unveiled plans to build an independent satellite system to ensure national security if the country found itself pushed out of equal access to the EU’s Galileo system post- Brexit.
The European Galileo, in turn, was conceived to rival the US Global Positioning System (GPS), a satellite-based radio-navigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the US Space Force.
GPS is used for commercial, military and other critical applications.
Galileo, a multibillion-euro satellite navigation system that was launched by the EU in 2016, sought to offer Europe an independent and more accurate alternative to the US Global Position System (GPS).
It was created by the European Union through the European GNSS Agency, with two ground operation centers in Fucino, Italy and Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany, and is named for Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei.
The complete 30-satellite Galileo system (24 operational and 6 active spares) is expected to come online later this year.
In November 2018 Prime Minister Theresa May pulled out of the Galileo project, to which the UK had contributed £1.2 billion, as Brussels had started excluding the country from security aspects of the project’s development in preparation for Brexit.
Galileo‘s Public Regulated Service (PRS) — a secure and encrypted signal used for defence and government purposes — is meant to be restricted to EU members only.
Theresa May had blamed the breakdown of negotiations in 2018 on the European Commission’s “decision to bar the UK from being fully involved in developing all aspects of Galileo,” saying: “I cannot let our Armed Services depend on a system we cannot be sure of. And as a global player with world-class engineers and steadfast allies around the world we are not short of options.”
The developments forced Britain to step up plans to develop its own global navigation satellite system. In October 2019 the UK Space Agency announced it was seeking organisations interested in investigating and developing concepts for satellite system receivers for a future UK global navigation satellite system.