The UK Government appear to be distancing themselves from plans for for a new sovereign satellite navigation system amid delays and high costs.
Back in 2018, the Government announced that it was going to invest £92 million of Brexit readiness money on plans for independent satellite navigation system. An 18-month study was to look at the design and development of UK programme and this would in turn inform the decision to create the system as an alternative to Galileo.
Why did the UK need an alternative? The Financial Times had reported that Britain wanted press ahead with its own satellite navigation system should the European Union continue to insist that the UK be barred from secure elements of Galileo.
In March 2020, it was revealed that the effort had been delayed over concerns about cost and then this month, The Telegraph that officials in Whitehall have been pushing ministers to announce the project’s cancellation.
Now, the Government appear to be emphasising a “system of systems” approach, using a mix of currently available systems the UK already has access to, rather than creating a new home grown satellite navigation system.
James Heappey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, said:
“UK Armed Forces rely upon accurate Positioning, Navigation and Timing information for a variety of critical applications. We have privileged access to US GPS, the world’s foremost GNSS system.
The Ministry of Defence is committed to a systems-of-systems approach to managing PNT vulnerabilities; we are working across Government, including the UK Space Agency, to develop options for UK Assured PNT to maximise return on investment and meet Critical National Infrastructure requirements.”
However, with Boris Johnson signalling his support for the £5 billion effort, it remains to be seen what will happen. We’ll just need to wait for the release of the National Space Strategy.