Galileo blow: £5bn UK rival set to be SCRAPPED with MP branding idea a ‘vanity project’

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In 2018, Boris Johnson’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Theresa May, allocated £92million in cash to investigate the feasibility of the UK building its own system after being frozen out of Galileo, despite having invested upwards of £1billion and developed much of the technology. However, widespread reports have suggested the UKSA has concluded the concept is not a viable one, with the agency declining to comment on the reports when questioned by today.

Now some in the industry, and within the civil service, now believe the UK’s best bet is to try and regain access to Galileo.

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, agreed, stressing the UK is currently without a back-up to the United States’s Global Positioning System (GPS), on which it is completely reliant.

Mr Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth West, told the push for a UK system had essentially been a “vanity project”.

Common sense must prevail

Tobias Ellwood

He added: “We need to remove the politics from security.

“Common sense must prevail. If we don’t have the back-up of Galileo we are going to have problems.”

The UK Government teamed up with Bharti Global earlier this year for a £900million deal to acquire a 45 percent stake in the US company OneWeb, after it entered bankruptcy.

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It was subsequently suggested the constellation of satellites could be retooled to operate as a British GNSS system.

However, experts have said their orbit is too low to make such an idea viable.

An industry insider told in July: “The OneWeb satellites are not currently designed to deliver a navigation service, so are not a solution to the lack of access to Galileo.

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“The production facility developed by Airbus for OneWeb in order to build the satellites is a) largely robotic (to keep the costs down) and b) in Florida.

“For both these reasons, the claim about bringing lots of jobs to the UK is questionable in the extreme.

“Note also that, if they try to change the satellite design in order to provide a navigation service they’d have to redesign the robotic production facility, and that would not be cheap.”

They added: “Having licensed OneWeb, under international treaties the UK is now legally liable for the OneWeb satellites.

“If OneWeb goes bust and abandons its hardware in space, the UK is responsible for the debris.”

Speaking in the Commons, also in July, Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The UK has an ambition to be a world leader in the space sector.

“GNSS wasn’t the rationale for this particular investment but of course we are exploring how OneWeb may be able to contribute to PNT resilience in the future.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The Government has set a clear ambition for a sovereign space programme which will bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits for the UK. Work is ongoing across Government to determine the UK’s positioning, navigation and timing requirements, and assessing options for meeting them.

“The UK will not participate in the EU’s Galileo programme.

“Current OneWeb satellites are used to deliver satellite communications services, not satellite navigation.”

A UKSA spokesman did not comment on the reports. has asked how much of the £92million has been spent, and on what.

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