Monday, May 21, 2018

EU "Freezes" Britain out of Galileo SatNav System; RAF Promises New "British" SatNav & Space Defence Policy

          By Henry Stewart

In the latest example of how politics influences the activities of the space industry, the United Kingdom (UK) has learned that, after contributing £1.2Bln ($2.06Bln CDN) of the estimated £8.5Bln ($14.6Bln CDN) total cost towards the building of the European Union (EU) Galileo navigation satellite system (GNSS) UK scientists will not be allowed to remain involved with the program.

As outlined in the May 21st, 2018 Express post, "RAF to launch NASA-style space agency after EU freezes Britain out of Galileo project," the non-elected governing body of the European Union (EU), known as the European Commission (EC), has said that continued UK participation in the Galileo program would “no longer be appropriate” after the expected exit of the UK from the EU (known as 'Brexit"), currently scheduled for midnight on March 30th, 2019 Central European Time.

In response, UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson has tasked the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) with assessing "the military requirements for a UK global navigation system," and developing partnerships "with other close allies such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the US" interested in contributing to a UK based satellite navigation project.

UK Defence Secretary Williamson. Photo c/o Mirror.
The assessment will become a core component of the first UK Defence Space Strategy, which is expected to be developed over the next few months.

Other UK news services are also reporting on the story.

As outlined in the May 21st, Independent post, "UK plans own space programme after dispute with EU over Galileo project, defence secretary announces," the UK will: its contribution to the EU’s Galileo satellite programme and “plan for alternative systems in this crucial area”, Gavin Williamson has said as he announced the launch of the UK’s first Defence Space Strategy. 
The move follows an increasingly bitter dispute between Whitehall (the centre of the UK government) and Brussels (the EU capital) over the access the UK, the European Union’s biggest spender on defence, will have to the bloc’s satellite navigation project after it leaves the EU.
The article also quoted the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, who said last week that British companies could not be directly involved in a new EU satellite navigation system after Brexit, but Britain would have access to its signal.

It cannot be business as usual,” according to Barnier. “Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

The announcement that the UK is planning “alternative systems” suggests that the UK government is resigned to being excluded from Galileo and forfeiting its investment.

The proposed new UK Space Defence Strategy "aims to significantly boost the sector in response to changing threats to the country’s critical infrastructure," according to the May 21st, 2018 Government Europa post, "UK launches first space defence strategy to protect space-based infrastructure."

According to the post:
Under the new strategy, the RAF Air Command will take control and assume responsibility for the UK’s military space operations in the future. These operations are set to increase as the nature of space-based threats changes.
According to UK Secretary of State Williamson, “Britain is a world leader in the space industry and our defence scientists and military personnel have played a central role in the development of the EU’s Galileo satellite programme alongside British companies, so it is important we also review our contribution and how we plan for alternative systems in this crucial area.”

Galileo GNSS is being built through the European Union (EU) by the European Space Agency (ESA). It's advertized as being intended primarily for civilian use, unlike the more military-orientated systems such as the US based Global Positioning System (GPS), Russia's  Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS) or China's 1st generation BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) and 2nd generation COMPASS system.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is a "cooperating state" of the ESA and participates in a variety of ESA programs and missions including Galileo, as outlined in the October 8th, 2003 Universe Today post, "Canada Joins Galileo System."

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

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