Published On: Fri, Aug 23rd, 2019

Brexit latest: UK can build Galileo satellite system at fraction of cost | Science | News

Professor Chris Chatwin of the University of Sussex fears political considerations are likely to outweigh those of cost and practicality – because Britain will want to launch a of its own, as opposed to the augmentation system he is proposing, which would be “bolted on” to an existing unmanned spacecraft. The engineering professor said: “I’m quite sure the UK has all the technological to build its own augmentation system or .”

After Brexit, Britain will no longer have full access to , which is owned by the EU and is a rival to the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS) – despite investing more than £1billion and developing much of the cutting-edge technology involved.

Mr Chatwin and former PhD student Dr Lasisi Lawal Salami, from Nigeria’s Obasanjo Space Center, outlined their proposal for a low-cost Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) in a paper published in the Journal of Electrical and Electronics Engineering earlier this year.

With Brexit looming ever larger, he told his plans made increasing sense.

The scheme would cost an estimated £300 million to build – just a quarter of the total the UK has already spent on Galileo – and would work by essentially refining the basic open service offered by Galileo, to which Britain will retain access to, as well as that of GPS.

Prof Chatwin said the proposed alternative would equal in terms of integrity, reliability, continuity and availability for the UK’s security related operation, and would be five times more accurate, to within five centimetres, compared with Galileo’s open service.

The expert said: “Our system can use the GPS or Galileo free signal or both and augments it to give it a more accurate signal that is comparable to the encrypted military signal.


He added: “In the end this is a decision about sovereignty.

“If we still believe that we are an independent military power, then we’d have to find considerable resources to build our own GNSS system. We could call it .”

The paper proposes the UK would need to launch three geostational satellite offering global coverage except in the extreme polar regions, and would also require an augmentation system which would “piggy back” on an existing national satellite – which Prof Chatwin suggested could be Nigeria’s Nigcomsat 1R, with which Dr Salami is Head of Navigation Services.

Nigcomsat 1R was designed and built by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CGWIC), a fact which Prof Chatwin acknowledged would likely be frowned upon by NATO partners including the United States should Britain use the satellite in this way

However, he stressed his paper was intended to demonstrate the possibilities which exist.

The EU was left red-faced last month after was forced offline after encountering a series of problems, forcing Europe to rely on GPS instead.

In December, then-Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed the UK will not use Galileo for defence or critical national infrastructure after Brexit.

Mrs May previously announced details of a £92 million feasibility study to consider the possibility of Britain building a alternative.

A UK Space Agency spokesman told “The work to develop the options for a UK global navigation satellite system is progressing well and we are engaging regularly with the UK space sector and key international allies.”

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