Image: Shutterstock

Blog editor’s note: Several interesting aspects of this story.

  • With Brexit, the UK was cut out of the EU’s Galileo GNSS project to which it had contributed greatly. We are not sure why that had to be as Norway, not a member of the EU, has been a Galileo partner since 2010.
  • The UK govt was talking for quite some time about putting up their own MEO GNSS to go head to head with Galileo and GPS. The govt abandoned the plan, it seems because of the cost and the small incremental improvement of adding to GPS and Galileo. (Question, is it GNSS if it is at LEO? Seems like “yes.”)
  • Many believe it is possible to leverage a LEO communications constellation for PNT. The University of Texas is working with the US Army Futures Command on demonstrating the feasibility of this. Many also think that the performance wouldn’t be quite as good as a LEO constellation dedicated to PNT, but agree that the signal will be stronger. 
  • The UK and India are getting a communications constellation that the UK can also use to publicly check the PNT box of their promise to the public and to give a “so there” to the EU on the Galileo issue. Even if they never use it for PNT.
  • The US was very concerned that OneWeb not be purchased by China or its agents and encouraged the UK in this.

So boxes checked on both sides of the Atlantic, not to mention in India.

There have been several articles published on this.  Here is one of the most recent:


OneWeb Auction Gives UK Huge Space Opportunity

By   07.06.2020

A consortium led by the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises has won the hugely competitive auction for satellite manufacturer and low Earth orbit (LEO) network operator OneWeb.

The consortium will use the assets of OneWeb — which has headquarters in both West London and Virginia in the US — to complete the deployment of a network to offer broadband services to predominantly rural areas, and to develop with partners a novel satellite navigation system that will compete with existing services such as the US GPS network and Europe’s fledgling Galileo system.

On the broadband side, OneWeb will be competing directly with Elon Musk’s StarLink venture.

A rendering of a OneWeb satellite in orbit (source: OneWeb)

The UK was forced to leave the pan-European Galileo project following its Brexit vote. Despite arguably having led the development of some of the most crucial elements of the system (including the encrypted sat-nav service reserved for use by the emergency and public services as well as many of the chips for both on-board use and for the receivers), the country will have no access to the Galileo system when it enters service later this year.