UK security at ‘severe risk’ without trusted satellite gain access to, MPs caution

The UK federal government’s failure to get surefire access to the satellite navigation systems important to defence and important facilities dangers threatening nationwide security, a cross-party group of MPs has actually stated.

The House of Commons science and innovation committee on Friday criticised the federal government for not establishing “resilient” alternative positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems after losing complete access to the EU’s Galileo, which the UK assisted fund and construct, due to the fact that of Brexit.

This has actually left the UK reliant on the US-controlled Global Positioning System for important functions. But gain access to might be obstructed in future or GPS might stop working, the MPs stated, which would leave nationwide security at “severe risk”.

In an extensive report, the committee called the federal government’s total method to area method “disjointed and unclear”. Other criticisms consisted of: hold-ups in licensing satellite launches from the UK; failure to release a Plan B for if the nation is locked out of the EU’s Copernicus earth observation program; and eliminating the National Space Council established in 2020.

Committee chair Greg Clark stated that, although the UK area and satellite market is thriving with profits of £16bn a year, “the government’s uncertain and disjointed approach is not realising the industry’s full potential”.

“Better cross-government co-ordination is sorely needed to reflect that the space sector is not just economically important but is central to the UK’s defence, national security and foreign relations,” he included.

The MPs stated a number of federal government departments were dealing with alternatives to “gain access to secure and resilient PNT” however that no method had actually yet been released. They revealed doubts about whether the constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit being established by OneWeb — in which the UK took a $500mn stake in 2020 — might supply PNT services as the federal government hopes.

“There are many technical issues surrounding using low Earth orbit satellites for PNT signals,” the report stated. “Ambiguity also remains about the development schedule for full PNT services from OneWeb and whether such services could be provided in a way that is appropriate for sovereign military and critical national infrastructure purposes.”

Because the loss of important satellite signals would be so hazardous for power circulation, monetary deals, transportation and defence, the committee prompted the federal government to move duty for establishing a PNT method from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to the National Security Adviser.

With 3 spaceports being established in the UK — one in Cornwall and 2 in northern Scotland — “there is palpable excitement building around the first launch of a satellite in the UK, which would propel the UK into a new space age”, stated Clark.

Unfortunately, he included, regulative hold-ups indicated this had actually not taken place in summertime 2022 as prepared. The most current informal quote is for the Virgin Orbit to perform a maiden launch from Spaceport Cornwall later on this month or in early December.

Clark gotten in touch with the federal government to pay “urgent attention” to the licensing procedure “to ensure there are no further delays . . . and the UK continues to attract satellite launches of global importance”.

The committee stated the primary issue was that the Civil Aviation Authority did not have adequate resources to perform the extremely intricate procedure of releasing the numerous licences needed to release a spacecraft.

“Out of the total workforce of 1,200 people at the CAA, only 35 are working on space flight regulation,” stated Clark.

A federal government representative stated: “Thanks to our continued support, the UK is now home to one of the most innovative and attractive space sectors in the world, with our National Space Strategy delivering huge milestones like Cornwall shortly hosting the first-ever small satellite launch from European soil.”

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