The UK Space Agency has announced funding into a feasibility study for a national alternative to the EU's Galileo programme.
John Worthy, Head of Satellite and Space Projects at Fieldfisher, comments on the news.
John has worked as a legal adviser to the EU Galileo satellite programme and has over 25 years' experience in advising on satellite and space programmes in the UK, Europe and round the world.
John Worthy: "Space has moved to centre stage in the Brexit discussions with the latest UK move to replace the EU's Galileo satellite navigation programme.
"At the core of the controversy is the EU's stance which will remove the UK's ability to use the services of the Galileo satellites, even though the UK has contributed over €1.4 billion in the joint EU/ESA satellite navigation programme. UK space businesses and scientists have worked extensively on Galileo's secure public regulated service (PRS) over many years, but are now set to be excluded from the programme after March 2019.
"After some months of debate about how to resolve the issue about UK use of the Galileo systems after Brexit, it appears that the EU is unlikely to offer a compromise. Therefore, the UK government has now taken a decisive step on the road to developing its own independent satellite navigation system, with an initial £92 million funding from the Brexit readiness fund for a feasibility study. This study will review the design and development of the UK programme, involving key players including the UK Space Agency and the UK Ministry of Defence. Importantly, the new UK system would be compatible with the US GPS system. The new funding is the latest in a line of recent UK government initiatives to promote the strengths of the UK space sector, including a National Satellite Testing Facility and the recent Space Agency announcement of funding for UK spaceports.
"Historically, the major satellite navigation programmes have been GPS and the Russian GLONASS systems. More recently, other nations, such as China, India and Japan, as well as the EU, have committed to develop their own independent systems, as the significance of these systems for aviation, shipping, road transportation and accurate timekeeping have come to the fore. The latest announcement means that the UK will soon be added to that list."
"Among the key issues which the UK programme will need to address are how to ensure that the rights underlying the new system are securely held in the UK, when much of the technology relies on a range of international contributions. Equally important, the EU claims rights in the Galileo technologies, so the UK will need to work out how to navigate round the EU's intellectual property. Finally, the UK government will be reviewing how to manage a procurement programme for the new systems and demonstrate value for money for the UK taxpayer, when there may be only a limited number of eligible suppliers."
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