UK starts work on satellite system to rival EU’s Galileo


LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Wednesday it would start work on an alternative satellite system to the European Union’s Galileo project to ensure its national security if it is barred from equal access to the EU programme after Brexit.

The British government, which still wants to remain involved in Galileo, said it would spend 92 million pounds on plans for an independent satellite system, led by the UK Space Agency with support from the Ministry of Defence.

The Galileo system, which will eventually have 30 satellites, is designed to compete with the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), used for commercial, military and other critical applications such as guiding aircraft.

British technology has been instrumental in Galileo’s development, 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.

Britain said that unless it can continue to collaborate on an equal basis and has access to security-related information needed for military functions like missile guidance, it will leave the project.

“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.”

Britain said it had skills, expertise and commitment to create it own satellite system. Such a system could be up and running in four to five years, and cost about 3 billion pounds, one expert said in May.

The EU aims to use Galileo to tap into the global market for satellite navigation services, which it estimates will be worth 250 billion euros ($293 billion) by 2022.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; editing by Michael Holden