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UKspace 2020 manifesto emphasizes UKs own GNSS system, calls for national space program

Image Courtesy: FT

UKspace has released its 2020 manifesto that reiterates the need for UK’s own GNSS system post-Brexit. It also outlines the areas UK government needs to focus for harnessing the complete potential of the space sector and outlines crucial recommendations.

The new manifesto says that the UK’s post-Brexit participation in a new global satellite navigation system must be secured, whether through ESA or a sovereign capability.

Britain decided to quit from the Galileo project in November 2018, after investing £1.4 billion over several years. After that Theresa May, the then Prime Minister of UK created a task force of engineering and aerospace experts led by the UK Space Agency “to develop options for a British Global Navigation Satellite System that would guide missiles and power satnavs”, and earmarked about £92 million for the project ($118 million) from the Brexit readiness fund.  .

Enhanced ESA fundings

Recognizing the need for broad global collaboration, the manifesto also calls for increased ESA funding. For a sector like space planned fundings are vital for smooth functioning and sparking innovations.

“European Space Agency (ESA) funding is fundamental to ensuring that industry can develop and manufacture the space technologies, capability and supply chains needed to secure the United Kingdom’s role in the global space market” it says.

It goes on to mention that the UK government must look at all opportunities to secure funding and without the ESA funds, UK space sector may have to face challenges.

Establishment of a national space program is also on the agenda. Space is a sector that has been traditionally reliant on government funds to boost R&D, creating a knowledge base and forging collaborations.

New space program

“The Government should establish a National Space Program, which includes a new £150m-a-year Innovation Fund. The National Space Program’s primary objective would be to ensure that the UK space sector plays an increasingly prominent role in the global space market”, the manifesto adds. It also states that the commercialization of R&D should be prioritized to leverage emerging technologies like AI, robotics and advanced manufacturing.

It further identifies five key programs that National Space Program should focus on. The programs are: Sovereign geospatial data; Ubiquitous, resilient and secure connectivity; Resilient position, navigation and timing security solutions; In-orbit assembly, servicing and debris removal, and Food Security.

Space Council  

On the lines of US, it also calls for setting a National Space Council that would have the authority and resources to drive the sector. The NSC could join up space strategy across Whitehall and help to ensure that public money is used to benefit government services and support industry growth. The National Space Council should have appropriate engagement with industry and academia to enhance its knowledge and credentials, it underlines.

While UK won’t be a part of Galileo, increased cooperation with the ESA for climate change mitigation and realizing the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, is something that the manifesto actively recommends. Copernicus is vital for our understanding of Earth systems, tracking emissions and environmental monitoring. It is imperative for the UK space sector to be able to lead future missions by the Copernicus program post-Brexit.  The manifesto underscores the need for either a post-Brexit agreement with EU or a separate partner program with the ESA.

Also Read: Brexit Bind: Why it makes little sense for Britain to build own GNSS system