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UK prepares to be excluded from Galileo

22 May 2018
An artist’s rendering of one of the Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element (GIOVE-A) satellites that make up the larger Galileo constellation. The UK’s future participation in the project is in doubt following its decision to leave the European Union. Source: European Space Agency

The UK is looking at options to develop its own satellite navigation system should the European Union (EU) make good on its intention to restrict the country’s future involvement in the Galileo project following Brexit, the government said on 21 May.

Speaking at the inaugural Ministry of Defence (MoD)-sponsored Air Power Association Defence Space 2018 conference in London, the Minister for Defence Procurement Guto Bebb said that while the UK is keen to remain a part of the project into which it has already invested GBP1.2 billion (USD1.6 billion), contingency planning is underway for a national alternative system should that not be possible.

“When it comes to partnership, I should add that we’re keen to remain a part of the Galileo project in which we were instrumental from the start. The threats that Galileo is designed to counter are shared by all of Europe, [and] so it makes no sense for the [European] Commission to exclude us from this programme – especially when many of its key modules and software were developed and built by UK experts […] We don’t want that to happen.

“We want to work closely with our European partners on security, so we’re still in discussion about the programme’s future. But we’re also making sure we’re not limiting our own opportunities. That includes looking at the possibility of an independent encrypted satellite navigation service, and the MoD is strongly supporting the Task Force led by the UK Space Agency [UKSA], to look at the alternatives.”

Speaking at the same event, the head of the UKSA, Graham Turnock, reiterated the minister’s support for continued UK participation in the Galileo project, while setting out some of the activities that his agency is now undertaking to mitigate against any national loss of access.

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