The government is to invest £92 million of Brexit readiness money on plans for an independent satellite system.
The UK is negotiating with the European Commission to remain involved in the European Union’s Galileo programme post-Brexit, but has now put the alternative plans in place.
The government said that without the assurance that UK industry can collaborate on an equal basis or access security-related information to rely on Galileo for military functions such as missile guidance, it would be obliged to end its participation in the project.
An 18-month study led by UK Space Agency and supported by the Ministry of Defence will look at the design and development of the proposed UK programme.
“Britain is a world leader in the space industry and satellites. We are investing in an alternative option to Galileo to ensure our future security needs are met using the UK’s world-leading space sector,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.
“Our position on Galileo has been consistent and clear. We have repeatedly highlighted the specialist expertise we bring to the project and the risks in time delays and cost increases that the European Commission is taking by excluding UK industry.
“Britain has the skills, expertise and commitment to create our own sovereign satellite system and I am determined that we take full advantage of the opportunities this brings, backed by our modern Industrial Strategy.”
A recent government study estimated that sustained disruption to satellite navigation systems like GPS would cost the UK economy £1 billion per day.
They are increasingly important for commercial, military and other critical applications, from guiding aircraft, ships and emergency services to helping millions of people find their way on car journeys.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “The danger space poses as a new front for warfare is one of my personal priorities, and it is absolutely right that we waste no time in going it alone if we need an independent satellite system to combat those emerging threats.
“This alternative system and the UK’s very first Defence Space Strategy which I will launch later this year will be a further boost to military skills, our innovative businesses and our genuinely world-leading role which has seen us make such a key contribution to Galileo.”
Dr Graham Turnock, CEO of UK Space Agency said: “We remain confident in the strength of our space sector and look forward to working in partnership with them on the exciting prospect of a national satellite navigation system.”