UK gov buys "wrong" satellites in £500m blunder

OneWeb can't provide the GPS system that will be required by the UK when it loses access to Europe's Galileo

The UK government has invested in a satellite company that does not provide the GPS system that will be required by the country once it loses access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system following Brexit.

Last week, prime minister Boris Johnson and chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak signed the purchase of a 20% stake in London-based satellite operator OneWeb in an effort to find a system which would support mobile phones, as well as provide location information for the military and businesses.

According to the Financial Times, the deal is worth “about £500m” of taxpayers’ money.

However, it has since been revealed that OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy in the US earlier this year, does not provide that kind of technology.

Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester, confirmed to The Guardian that the UK government had “bought the wrong satellites”.

“What’s happened is that the very talented lobbyists at OneWeb have convinced the government that we can completely redesign some of the satellites to piggyback a navigation payload on it," he said.

"It’s bolting an unproven technology on to a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else. It’s a tech and business gamble."

At just 1,200km above sea level, OneWeb’s 74 satellites are situated too low on the Earth’s orbit to provide the UK with the appropriate signal. In comparison, the EU’s Galileo system is located approximately 23,222km above land.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the UK government said:  “We have made clear our ambitions for space and are developing a new national space strategy to bring long-term strategic and commercial benefits to the UK. We are in regular discussions with the space industry as part of this work".

The government’s deal with OneWeb was criticised as an example of politicians’ lack of tech knowledge, as well as fuelling the isolationist agenda by investing in a flailing company primarily due to the fact that it is based in the UK.

The government was previously looking at building its own global navigation satellite system, a project which independent experts estimated to cost between £3 billion and £5 billion.

Featured Resources

Shining light on new 'cool' cloud technologies and their drawbacks

IONOS Cloud Up! Summit, Cloud Technology Session with Russell Barley

Watch now

Build mobile and web apps faster

Three proven tips to accelerate modern app development

Free download

Reduce the carbon footprint of IT operations up to 88%

A carbon reduction opportunity

Free Download

Comparing serverless and server-based technologies

Determining the total cost of ownership

Free download

Most Popular

How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD
Microsoft Windows

How to move Microsoft's Windows 11 from a hard drive to an SSD

24 Nov 2021
What should you really be asking about your remote access software?
Sponsored

What should you really be asking about your remote access software?

17 Nov 2021
Nike to take customers into the metaverse with 'NIKELAND'
virtualisation

Nike to take customers into the metaverse with 'NIKELAND'

19 Nov 2021