Boris Johnson is set to secure £400m stake in satellite operator OneWeb

Britain’s satellite race: Boris Johnson bids to secure £400m stake of US operator OneWeb as UK loses access to EU’s Galileo space system post-Brexit

  • PM and chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off purchase of 20% stake in American operator last night
  • OneWeb could deliver same civil/military tracking services as EU’s rival system 
  • UK-licensed OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 27 partly due to coronavirus pandemic; its HQ is in London

Boris Johnson is set to secure the £400million part-purchase of satellite operator OneWeb, which could deliver the same civil and military tracking services as the EU’s rival system Galileo.

The Prime Minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off the purchase of a 20% stake in American operator OneWeb Satellites last night.

UK-licensed OneWeb filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 27 – partly due to the coronavirus pandemic – and has its headquarters in London.

The firm has already launched 74 satellites – including 34 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in early February to provide high-speed internet access using satellite communications. 

Britain needs its own satellite navigation system as it will be denied access to the Galileo space project for defence or critical national infrastructure after Brexit. 

Boris Johnson is set to secure the £400m part-purchase of satellite operator OneWeb, which could deliver the same civil and military tracking services as the EU’s rival system Galileo

The Prime Minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off the purchase of a 20% stake in American operator OneWeb Satellites last night. (File photo)

The Prime Minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak signed off the purchase of a 20% stake in American operator OneWeb Satellites last night. (File photo)

Ministers were left furious in 2018 after Brussels warned that Britain’s role in the £9billion Galileo was up for negotiation, despite the UK being one of the biggest investors in it. 

Officials had been looking into the potential for a system that could deliver the same civil and military tracking services as Galileo and the US’s GPS yet function at a lower altitude and on a different frequency. 

Technically, the government is making a bid for the stake – but British officials said the transaction was at ‘a very advanced stage’, The Times reported.  

OneWeb’s website said in April that it was in advanced negotiations for investment that would have provided funding through its commercial launch.

‘While the company was close to obtaining financing, the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of Covid-19,’ the global satellite broadband company’s statement said.

The Government had originally planned to press ahead with the development of its own satellite navigation system but scrapped the project after reviewing the costs.

OneWeb Satellites has already launched 74 satellites - including 34 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in early February (pictured) to provide high-speed internet access using satellite communications

OneWeb Satellites has already launched 74 satellites – including 34 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in early February (pictured) to provide high-speed internet access using satellite communications

OneWeb had been considered the main competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink constellation, with the same aim – to bring broadband to rural communities. 

Galileo is a global navigation satellite system created by the European Union which was brought online in 2016.

The project was built to provide a high-precision global positioning system for the use of European nations that was independent of the US’ GPS and Russia’s GLONASS systems.

The setup can provide horizontal and vertical position measurements to a precision of within 1 metre.

It also provides a better service for users in higher latitudes than alternative systems.

Galileo’s low-precision services are free to use and open to everyone, while paying commercial customers can access the system’s higher-precision capabilities.

The first test satellite for the project was launched in December 2005, while the first working satellite was put into orbit in October 2011. 

The whole Galileo project is estimated to have cost around €10billion (£9bn).

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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