The government is to spend £92m making plans for a rival satellite navigation system in case it is barred from the EU’s Galileo system.
The money will fund an 18-month project to create a detailed technical assessment and schedule for creating a domestic system, and will make “a number of multi-million-pound contracts available for British space companies”. It will come out of the UK’s £3bn Brexit readiness fund.
The UK government has already said it wants to stay a full participant of the Galileo programme after Brexit, however Brussels has proposed excluding the UK from secure aspects of the Galileo programme because the UK will no longer be an EU member state.
Without access to these secure aspects the government said it would be forced to develop its own system for military-related functions, including missile guidance. Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: “It is absolutely right that we waste no time in going it alone if we need an independent satellite system.”
The UK has already invested €1.4bn (£1.2bn) into the Galileo project and some of the major contractors are UK based, including the encryption. Business secretary Greg Clark said: “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 has the skills, expertise and commitment to create our own sovereign satellite system and I am determined that we take full advantage of the opportunities this brings, backed by our modern Industrial Strategy.”
Earlier this year Clark sent letters to UK-based firms in the Galileo supply chain threatening to revoke security clearances if they continue to work on the project in the event that the UK government is excluded.
The planning process for an alternative system will be led by the UK Space Agency with the support of the Ministry of Defence, which recently launched its first space defence strategy. Alternative suitable systems for both military and civilian use will be considered.
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