Friday, July 06, 2018

The European Space Agency Post Brexit

         By Chuck Black

Under the belief that "leaving Earth requires international collaboration," the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) has built longstanding partnerships with both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) which allow it to gain access to space missions for a lower cost.

But Canada isn't the only country which has placed relationships with other countries at the core of their space program.

The United Kingdom's long standing partnership with the ESA is being torn apart over UK access to the Galileo Satellite Navigation system, which provides geolocation and time information to appropriate receivers anywhere on or near the Earth.

In March 2018, the European Commission (EC), the "executive cabinet" of the European Union (EU) announced that the UK may be excluded from parts of the Galileo program following its exit from the EU. This includes Galileo's publicly regulated service (PRS), an encrypted navigation service for government authorized users and sensitive applications that require high continuity.

Galileo is being built by the EU specifically so that European nations do not have to rely on the Russian GLONASS, Chinese BeiDou or the US Global Positioning Systems (GPS), which could be disabled or degraded by their operators at any time.

The UK, while it has already contributed a staggering £1Bln ($1.74Bln CDN) out of the £8.5Bln ($14.76Bln CDN) in expected Galileo costs over the life of the program, has no guarantee that the EU will continue to provide access after March 29th, 2019, when the country is scheduled to officially exit from the EU in a process known as Brexit.

As outlined in the July 4th, 2018 post, "Galileo satellite launch: EU primed for July liftoff despite UK post-Brexit uncertainty," UK Prime Minister Teresa May has already been publicly advised to "to ditch the European system in favour of America’s GPS," by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the UK's foreign intelligence service tasked with the covert overseas collection and analysis of human intelligence (HUMINT) in support of the UK's national security.

According to the article, UK Business Secretary Greg Clark has asked for £100Mln in funding ($174Mln CDN) from the Treasury "to investigate whether or not Britain would be better off developing its own navigations system."

At least one, non-EU nation is currently involved with Galileo and others have been in the past. In 2009, Norway joined the programme pledging €68.9Mln ($106Mln CDN) and allowing its companies to bid for the construction contracts. Norway, while not a member of the EU, is a member of ESA, as is the UK.

Before going its own way with BeiDou, China was also a partner in Galileo.

As outlined in the January 17th, 2018 post, "Europe's space agency braces for Brexit fallout," the ESA has been "drawing up contingency plans for projects, commercial deals, and staffing that may be adversely affected by Brexit."

As for the UK, it is heavily investing in its space industry and plans to control 10% of the international market by 2030.

That's a new path and, as outlined in the May 21st, 2018 post, "EU "Freezes" Britain out of Galileo SatNav System; RAF Promises New "British" SatNav & Space Defence Policy," its not a path likely to make many new friends for the UK within the EU.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

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