UK and Scotland’s Space Sector Involvement in the EU Space Programme

24th May 2021

The recent Brexit predictably made changes in the cooperation between the UK and the EU, which, among other things, affected Scotland’s space sector. The UK was forced to leave the EU Galileo and EGNOS programs. However, due to membership of ESA (European Space Agency), which is not an EU organisation, UK managed to maintain its participation in the EU Space Programme, albeit with some restrictions. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

What Is EU Space Programme

The European Space Programme includes the following initiatives:

  1. Galileo and EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) – satellite navigation,
  2. Copernicus – Earth observation,
  3. EUSST – space tracking and surveillance,
  4. GovSatCom – government satellite communications.

European Union countries are the default participants of the EU Space Programme, and can make full use of its benefits and opportunities without any restrictions.

UK Left Galileo and Egnos

Since the UK is no longer a EU member, its participation in Galileo and EGNOS has been discontinued, which means that the UK government and industry structures can no longer:

  • Use Galileo (including Public Regulated Service, PRS, for defence or critical national infrastructure)
  • Have access to the encrypted state-regulated Galileo service
  • Participate in Galileo development
  • Participate in EGNOS development
  • Use the EGNOS SoL service and the EGNOS Working Agreements (EWAs) from June 25, 2021

Besides, UK businesses, scientists, and researchers cannot bid for future EU GNSS contracts and may face difficulties in fulfilling existing contracts.

At the same time, ordinary satellite navigation users in the UK, EU, and other countries did not suffer in any way. They can still use Galileo and EGNOS on their mobile devices.

In addition, UK businesses and organisations can continue to freely use the available “open” signal to develop their products and consumer services. They can also use the location, navigation, and time services provided by Galileo and EGNOS in the public domain.

Copernicus Remains & Scotland’s Space Sector Thrives

From 2021-2027, the UK will continue to participate in the Copernicus program. Its purpose is to collect information by small satellites, sensors, and ground stations to obtain a complete picture of the ecology and the Earth’s environment to mitigate the climate change effects. A huge plus of Copernicus is free access to information and data for any user.

However, it is likely that the UK will lose access to some sensitive data, and will not be able to participate in those parts of the Copernicus program that are intended for EU member states only.

Thanks to the UKSA’s collaboration with ESA, the UK will continue to participate in the Copernicus CSC-4 space component. This means that if the tenders for CSC-4, GMES, EOEP5 contracts are initiated by ESA, UK companies will have every right to participate.

Also, the UK, and Scotland’s Space Sector, in particular, will continue to participate in the Copernicus Sentinel 6 mission, aiming to monitor the increase in sea levels as the result of climate change.

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