Will Brexit Britain Be Able To Conquer Space Alone & create the UK Spaceports?

2nd Apr 2020
UK Spaceports

Before the initial steps towards creating a UK spaceport, in 2018 British companies discovered that acquiring contracts to work on sensitive parts of the European Union’s flagship space project became more difficult. The GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) is the European version of the American GPS (Global Positioning System) and is expected to launch at some point in 2020.

Britain’s exit from the EU means no access to GNSS from now on, and it has to put all its efforts into the UK spaceport. The UK now seeks to create its own version of Galileo, and the feasibility study began in 2018. It was due in March this year, boasting an incredible cost of £92 million. Newspapers across the country reported this month that spiralling costs of the programme impeded the release, and there are doubts that the UK can finalize this project.

The UK Spaceport and Decisions Taken In The Heat of The Moment

This decision to “build our own”, came out as a political vanity project during the May Government two years ago. Gavin Williamson’s goal of making this news global came in the heat of that moment. Government executives didn’t fully understand at the time what the project was about—specifics, scale, cost, complexity, and development time. This was to be a very different project compared to the UK spaceport.

Right now, more and more people in various departments realize how much a “United Kingdom GNSS” would actually cost to design, build, and run. There are also discussions about the capability it would really add. Is this a massive waste of effort?

GNSS Technology: What Is It?

The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) consists of around 30 satellites that orbit around the planet at altitudes varying between 22,000-25,000km. They offer navigation, positioning, plus timing signals for commercial, civil infrastructure, and military uses.

UK’s GNSS Cost

The United Kingdom would spend around £5 billion to design and build such a constellation of satellites, and it still has a lot of work to do on the UK spaceport. There is one more thing that needs to be taken into consideration. The US and the EU spent around £1 billion each just on maintenance of their systems.  Conquering space is very difficult and very expensive. It’s hugely important for the development of infrastructure for military and commercial purposes, and this is an essential reason why the EU started in the first place. Britain now sees that middle-sized countries can find themselves out of their depth when it comes to space unless it cooperates with other nations. Meanwhile, there is still some work to be done on the UK spaceport.

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