Europe

Good riddance Galileo! UK already ‘talking with US’ to incorporate GPS into satellites

Galileo: David Morris outlines UK’s role in project

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The EU’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) goes live in 2026, and will feature a Public Regulated Service (PRS) that can be used by government agencies, armed forces and emergency services. But the bloc decided this “crucial feature” would only be accessible for bloc members, despite the UK developing its “brains and heart”. The Government has since put its faith in OneWeb – the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband constellation that was acquired from bankruptcy along with Indian company Bharti Global. 

Currently, Britain is relying on America’s GPS system, but Chair of the Parliamentary Space Committee, David Morris, believes that relationship will deepen.

He told Express.co.uk: “We have been talking with the US for some time about encompassing GPS.

“It’s only a matter of time before it starts amalgamating with OneWeb] because our allies are in NATO.

“We are now in a position to drive our own agenda.”

OneWeb was designed as a broadband constellation first and foremost – it will provide rural 4G, and one day 5G, Internet signals across the nation.

It will operate in LEO, as opposed to the medium Earth orbits used by Galileo and GPS.

But while current plans will see OneWeb’s first run of satellites used for broadband,  it has been tipped by some for future developments that could include navigation capacity like Galileo.

Others are more sceptical.

Leicester University’s Dr Bleddyn Bowen famously remarked that the UK had “bought the wrong satellite” to replace Galileo.

And another anonymous space industry executive claimed the move would be “like trying to build a hybrid of a Formula 1 racing car and a dump truck”.

It comes after the Government, along with Indian company Bharti Global bought OneWeb out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy for $1billion (£730million) last year.

It has now declared itself “financially secure” after raising the $2.4billion (£1.73billion) funding necessary to roll out the remaining 650 satellites in its constellation.

The team have now set their sights on completing their global coverage, but the 254 probes already launched are enough to start offering a commercial service to the Northern Hemisphere. 

And the company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BT to explore the possibility of improving digital communication services in some of the hardest to reach parts of the UK.

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OneWeb’s CEO, Neil Masterson, said: “What we have now is an indigenous British space industry that can lead to next-generation satellite development and give the graduates of our many universities a real career opportunity in Britain.

“We’re not going to lose them abroad to others, but rather we’ll keep them here.

“As we’ve seen in the pharma industry, that’s good for our future [economy in Britain].”

It comes after Bharti Global invested a further $500million (£362million) and Paris-based Eutelsat declared a $550million (£400million) investment.

The New Delhi-based tech company will be the company’s largest shareholder with a 38.6 percent stake, while the Government, Eutelsat, and Japan’s Softbank will each hold 19.3 percent.

The company will now start mapping out plans to cover the whole of the globe in a move that will put them in direct competition with Elon Musk’s Starlink, which now has more than 1,500 satellites in orbit.

Mr Masterson told MailOnline: “If you’re in the middle of northern Alaska, we will be able to provide the same connectivity, the same speed, low latency, the same feel, as people have in New York City. 

“In the UK, there are obviously locations that do not have the same connectivity as others.

“We can dramatically narrow that gap, which opens up opportunities from an educational perspective, from a healthcare perspective, and it just opens up the digital economy. 

“What this means is that you don’t have to be in a conurbation to be able to contribute to, or take the benefits from, that digital economy.”

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