United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System


United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System
Country/ies of origin United Kingdom
Operator(s)UK Space Agency, part of HM Government
TypeMilitary, civilian
StatusReset into new programme
Orbital characteristics
Regime(s)proposed: Medium Earth orbit
Other details
Costprojected: £bn[1][2][3]

The United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System (UK GNSS) was a United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA) research programme, which between May 2018 and September 2020, developed outline proposals and develop systems for a United Kingdom (UK) owned and operated conventional satellite navigation system, as a British alternative to the European Union (EU) owned and operated Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System. The main reason was to provide a national and independent system, to endure UK security, following the UK's withdrawal from the EU as a result of Brexit.[4] It was fully supported by the Ministry of Defence.[4]

In September 2020, the UK GNSS programme concluded; it was relaunched as a new entity, namely the United Kingdom Space Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Programme (UK SBPNTP).


With the now universal reliance on the output provided by satellite navigation systems by many aspects of everyday life, in both private and commercial sectors, along with critical uses by military, maritime, and emergency services, continued and reliable access to such navigation systems is vital for United Kingdom. An earlier study by the UK Government warned that sustained disruption to a reliable satellite navigation could cost the British economy £billion per day.[4]

The United Kingdom Global Navigation Satellite System was first discussed by the UK Government in May 2018,[4][5] after the European Union told the United Kingdom that it would no longer have full access to,[3] nor be able to use the encrypted secure component (known as the Public Regulated Service, which is only accessible to the military, emergency services, and government agencies) of the Galileo system,[1][2][6] the European equivalent of the United States of America owned and operated Global Positioning System (GPS), originally known as Navstar GPS. This UK exclusion from Galileo is despite the fact that the United Kingdom has already contributed more than £1 billion towards the cost of setting up Galileo, together with providing much of the British development and cutting-edge technology.[3] One suggested name for the new UK system was 'Newton', after the English mathematician and scientist Sir Isaac Newton.[2][3][7]

The UK GNSS would be run by the United Kingdom Space Agency (UKSA).[3][8] Medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites were planned to be launched from the proposed spaceport in Sutherland, Scotland, using a vertical launch platform in 2025,[9][10] with the United Kingdom GNSS planned to be fully operational by 2030.[1] In 2019, it was estimated that the cost of the project would be £5 billion.[1][2][3]

The United Kingdom government said that it wanted its GNSS to be openly compatible with the United States of America's Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. The USA, and the other Five Eyes nations contributed expertise to assist the planning and construction, and in exchange, these nations would gain access to the United Kingdom's GNSS encrypted area after it is launched.[11][12][13]

In November 2019, the United Kingdom's Space Trade Association (UKSTA) released a United Kingdom Space Manifesto, in which they state that United Kingdom "participation in a new global satellite navigation system must be secured".[14][15]

In July 2020, the United Kingdom Government and India's Bharti Enterprises were successful in a joint bid to purchase the bankrupt OneWeb satellite communications company, with the UK paying £400 million (US$500 million) for a 45% stake. The UK government is considering whether OneWeb low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation could in future provide a form of GNSS service in addition to its primary purpose of fast satellite broadband.[16]

On 24 September 2020, the UK Government announced that the UK GNSS programme would be replaced with a new project; the Space Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Programme; which will explore innovative ways to provide satellite navigation services to the UK, building on findings from the concluded UK GNSS programme.[17] The UK Government had allocated £90 million to developing the proposals.[10][18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Hoare, Callum (9 December 2019). "£5 billion Galileo replacement revealed as Boris Johnson plans 2030 'full system' launch". www.Express.co.uk. Canary Wharf, London, England: Daily Express. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d Kantaria, Priya (20 February 2019). "UK Galileo alternative costs just 3% of the EU satellite". www.Verdict.co.uk. London, England: Verdict Media Limited. Archived from the original on 16 February 2020. Retrieved 15 September 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e f McGrath, Ciaran (23 August 2019). "Forget EU! UK can build a BETTER version of Galileo - for just a fraction of the cost". www.Express.co.uk. Canary Wharf, London, England: Daily Express. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "Space sector to benefit from multi-million pound work on UK alternative to Galileo". GOV.UK. Westminster, London, England: HM Government. 29 August 2018. Retrieved 17 September 2021. UK industry will benefit from a £92-million injection to design a national alternative to the EU's Galileo satellite system, ensuring UK security post Brexit.
  5. ^ Dan, Sabbagh (28 August 2018). "Teresa May pledges Galileo alternative if U.K. locked out of satnav system". www.TheGuardian.com. The Guardian.
  6. ^ Smith, Anne (18 May 2018). "Galileo row: Brexit will bar U.K. from E.U. sat-nav programme, but Britain could build its own". www.TheConversation.com. Portsmouth: The Conversation, University of Portsmouth.
  7. ^ "UK Galileo replacement proposed". www.GovernmentEuropa.eu. Government Europa. 20 February 2019.
  8. ^ "UK Space Agency leads work on options for independent satellite system". GOV.UK. Westminster, London, England: HM Government. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 5 May 2021.
  9. ^ "Scottish rocket site planned could it launch British GNSS". InsideGNSS.com. Inside GNSS. 14 February 2020.
  10. ^ a b Foust, Jeff (25 September 2020). "UK to revise strategy for satellite navigation system". SpaceNews.com. Space News. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  11. ^ Hoare, Callum (10 December 2019). "UK Galileo replacement to integrate with U.S. GPS as Brexit inspires 'new relationship'". www.Express.co.uk. Canary Wharf, London, England: Daily Express.
  12. ^ Titcomb, James (17 August 2019). "UK seeks 'Five Eyes' alliance on satellite rival to EU's Galileo". www.Telegraph.co.uk. London, England: The Telegraph.
  13. ^ "A Very British GNSS Could Be On the Horizon". InsideGNSS.com. Inside GNSS. 21 August 2019.
  14. ^ Chaturvedi, Aditya (26 November 2019). "2020 manifesto emphasises UK's own GNSS system, calls for national space programme". www.GeospatialWorld.net. Geospatial World.
  15. ^ Cozzens, Tracy (2 December 2019). "UK Space Manifesto recommends post-Brexit GNSS". www.GPSWorld.com. GPS World.
  16. ^ "UK takes £400m stake in satellite firm OneWeb". www.BBC.co.uk. Westminster, London, England: BBC News. 3 July 2020. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  17. ^ "Government to explore new ways of delivering 'sat nav' for the UK". GOV.UK. Westminster, London, England: HM Government. 24 September 2020. Retrieved 5 January 2021.
  18. ^ Field, Matthew (27 September 2020). "Inside the battle to build a British version of the Galileo satellite system". www.Telegraph.co.uk. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 September 2020.

Further reading

  • Andreou, Alex (30 June 2020). "UK's rival to Galileo: a Brexit farce". BylineTimes.com. Byline Times. Retrieved 4 October 2020.
  • Gutierrez, Peter (30 November 2020). "The rocky road to a UK GNSS". InsideGNSS.com. Inside GNSS.