UK ends Galileo talks, says it will explore a homegrown alternative

The United Kingdom has walked away from negotiations over its post-Brexit involvement in the European Unions Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS).

Instead of using Galileos military-grade signal, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Nov. 30 that the U.K. will explore building its own GNSS.

Expected to reachfull operational capacity in the 2020s, Galileo is the EUs answer to navigation systems like the United StatesGPS. Galileos Public Regulated Service (PRS) — a secure and encrypted signal used for defense and government purposes — is meant to be restricted to EU members.

That means that after Brexit, British companies would not be able to bid for contracts involved in developing and maintaining PRS, and the U.K. would have to work out a deal with the EU even to become a passive user of the military-grade signal, unless another arrangement was reached.

May blamed the end of the negotiations on the European Commissions “decision to bar the UK from being fully involved in developing all aspects of Galileo.”

Instead of using Galileo’s military-grade signal, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Nov. 3 that the U.K. will explore building its own GNSS. Credit: ESA artist’s concept

“I cannot let our Armed Services depend on a system we cannot be sure of,” May said in a statement. “That would not be in our national interest. And as a global player with world-class engineers and steadfast allies around the world we are not short of options.”

Sam Gyimah, the U.K.s universities and science minister, resigned from his post in protest, calling Galileo “only a foretaste of what’s to come” under the Brexit deal.

“Having surrendered our voice, our vote and our veto, we will have to rely on the ‘best endeavours’ of the EU to strike a final agreement that works in our national interest,” Gyimah wrote in a long statement posted to his Facebook page. “As Minister with the responsibility for space technology I have seen firsthand the EU stack the deck against us time and time again, even while the ink was drying on the transition deal. Galileo is a clarion call that it will be ‘EU first,’ and to think otherwise—whether you are a leaver or remainer—is at best incredibly naive.”

Some space policy experts said its not out of the question for a deal over Galileo access to be reached in the future.

“Theres no reason Britain should have given up trying to gain access to PRS as a passive user, in the same way that the United Statesmilitary allies use GPS for the military signal,” said Bleddyn Bowen,a lecturer in international relations at the University of Leicester. “The EU wasnt ruling out that Britain could use PRS as a passive third-party in the same way we do with GPS.”

Similarly, Sa’id Mosteshar, of the London Institute of Space Policy and Law, said that the armed forces of non-EU members can gain access to the signal under asecurity agreement with the EU. “It was open to the U.K. to reach such an agreement and it is surprising that it has decided not to do so,” Mosteshar said.

Bowen added that the Brexit process is in “quite a moment of flux” and he thought the Galileo issue could be picked up again in the future.

“The declaration from Theresa May was basically, I think, to make Britain look like it had agency in the matter rather than cutting off its nose to spite its face,” Bowen said. “It is really more political theater as May is now fighting at this crunch moment in the Brexit process because Parliament may be undertaking a contempt of Parliament motion against her.”

Earlier this year U.K. space officials had floated the idea that they could partner with another country, such as Australia, to build a new GNSS. In August, the British government announced it would spend92 million pounds ($117 million) from a “Brexit readiness fund” to study the prospects for building an independent alternative to Galileo.

“The cost of developing a national replacement has been estimated to be in the region of £3 billion to £5 billion ($3.8 billion to $6.3 billion) and this is a significant expenditure when considering that the current U.K. space budget is only £370 million ($470 million) per year with the majority of that going to fulfill U.K. commitments to ESA,” said Christopher Newman, a professor of space law and policy at Northumbria University.

Newman added that it wasnt clear where the budget for such an expensive project would come from.

“Either it wipes out the existing U.K. space budget for 10 years,” he told SpaceNews, “or, as is more likely, it is additional defense expenditure that others will argue could be much more effectively be spent elsewhere.”

Though Galileo is an EU program, it is operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), a separate body which the U.K. will remain part of after Brexit. Newman said the Galileo negotiations may have damaged the U.K.’s ability “to maintain good relationships across ESA.”

 “The U.K.’s commitments to working collaboratively in space with European partners contrasts sharply with some of the bellicose rhetoric that has been seen in respect of the Galileo program,” Newman said. “This will not have gone unnoticed by potential collaborators when further, lucrative space-based projects are put out for tender by the EU.”

The Financial Times reported that the British government is expected to seek compensation for the 1.2 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) it has invested in Galileo’s development.

Original article: SpaceNews.com

ESA’s space vision presented at Paris Peace Forum

ESA astronaut Claudie Haigneré attended the Paris Peace Forum this weekend, presenting the Agency’s vision for engaging humankind in multilateral cooperation for space exploration with peaceful objectives.

An initiative launched by President Macron of France, the Paris Peace Forum is an annual platform for global governance projects and was conceived as a response to tensions in the contemporary world. Taking place this year on 11-13 November, the centenary marking the end of the First World War, the event includes the attendance of over 60 international Heads of State.

Based on the belief that durable peace can only be achieved through international cooperation in several sectors, including space exploration, the Forum was an ideal opportunity to present ESA’s ‘Moon Village’ vision. This foresees a peaceful global cooperation to achieve a space landmark for humankind in 21st century, realising the potential of humankind as spacefaring species, while providing benefits and opportunities to as many people as possible on Earth.

Claudie Haigneré
Claudie Haigneré

Astronaut Claudie Haigneré said, “The question is not whether humankind will return to the Moon, but rather when and who. Our ‘Moon Village’ concept is an ambitious vision, a multi-partner open concept, it’s a step to engage all humankind, and not just separate nations, towards a component of its future.”

The Moon Village concept was introduced three years ago as a proposal for the post-International Space Station space programme. Over the last few years, plans to return to the Moon have gained interest and moved up the agendas of government, space agencies and private entrepreneurs.

A number of initiatives and missions are under way: from the US-led Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway and Chinese plans to explore the Moon, to European initiatives conducted through ESA. All these efforts converge towards a common goal: returning to and going forward to the Moon establishing a permanent presence.

But, although international in nature, these projects still replicate to some extent the ‘competitive approach’ of earlier ventures. They lack the global approach that would maximise results, allow wider participation, inspire younger generations and further mutual understanding and cooperation.

ESA has been working to promote this approach, also reaching out to non-space potential partners and other interested parties. This is the chance to rally the whole international community around a truly global vision where, through suitable governance mechanisms, any nation can be part of the effort regardless of their actual space capability.

Claudie Haigneré said, “Mobilised together towards this new step of humankind’s expansion, let us leave aside our national divisions and rivalries. As we move from our planet Earth, our cradle, let us grasp the opportunity to think differently in terms of multilateral cooperation, peaceful objectives, and respect for diverse interests and preservation of our common interests.

“We share the values that are promoted in this forum: respect, peaceful objectives with soft leadership and inclusiveness for inspiration. The spirit of the Moon Village is not taking part in a space race or competition, but an expression of cooperation, shared responsibility and sustainability.

“It not just a temporary adventure, or a nomadic exploration, but a true sustainable endeavour, with the wish to contribute in return to a better management of our planet Earth. We want to gather high-level political will to take this tremendous opportunity to think about the future of humankind on a new basis. The generations of the 21st century will be grateful for this fascinating endeavour.”

Claudie Haigneré and Piero Messina were accompanied by ESA Director General Jan Wörner with the support of ESA astronaut Frank De Winne, Head of the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany.

ALTEC, SITAEL, Virgin Galactic & The Spaceship Company Sign Framework to Bring Commercial Spaceflights to Italy

Grottaglie, Italy (Friday, July 6, 2018): Nicola Zaccheo, Sitael CEO, Vincenzo Giorgio, Altec CEO, and George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, signed at Sitael headquarters a framework agreement that intends to bring Virgin Galactic spaceflights to Italy.

Source: Virgin Galactic

The agreement comes after two years of business discussions, government regulatory analysis, studies on potential operations and market assessment and the signature was witnessed also by the founder of Virgin Group Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Angel Group Mr. Vito Pertosa, the President of the Italian Space Agency Mr. Roberto Battiston, the Italian Minister Ms. Barbara Lezzi, the President of Apulia Region Mr. Michele Emiliano, the President of the Aeroporti di Puglia Mr. Tiziano Onesti and the Commercial Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Rome Todd Avery.

Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder, said “From the Renaissance to modern space science, Italy has always been a natural home to great innovators and breakthrough ideas which have shaped the human experience. I believe Italy’s vision which has led to this collaboration with our Virgin space companies, will provide a real impetus as we strive to open space for the benefit of life on Earth. This partnership could see Virgin Galactic launch the first person in history into space from Italian soil – and in fact from any European territory. Together, we will help to expand opportunities for science, industry and the millions of people who dream of experiencing space for themselves.”

Source: Virgin Galactic

In September 2016 Altec – a public-private company owned by the Italian Space Agency and Thales Alenia Space – signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Virgin Galactic. In August 2017 the U.S. Department of State approved a Technical Assistance Agreement for the development of a plan for ultimate construction of an Italian spaceport, that will provide the infrastructure for future Virgin Galactic suborbital flights. Virgin Galactic’s operational headquarters remains at Spaceport America in New Mexico, the world’s first purpose built commercial spaceport.

Earlier this year, following in-depth analysis of potential locations, the Italian aviation authority ENAC designated the Taranto-Grottaglie Airport as the future home for horizontally-launched spaceflights in Italy.

Sitael, the largest privately-owned space company in Italy with headquarters in Puglia region, is partnering with Altec and Virgin Galactic in order to define the framework that will lead the spaceflight operations from Grottaglie Spaceport.

The agreement signed today envisions a dedicated space vehicle system, built by Virgin Galactic’s sister enterprise The Spaceship Company, being positioned at the future Grottaglie Spaceport, which will integrate significant technological and industrial contribution from Sitael and the rest of Italian Aerospace industry, pending regulatory approvals.

The space vehicle would be utilized by customers like the Italian Space Agency as a science platform for high-frequency space research, as well as private individuals to experience space. This dual nature will drive innovation, spur industrial development, STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as promote further investments and economic growth in Puglia and Italy as a whole.

Representatives of Italian Government and Puglia Region together with leadership of the U.S. Embassy in Rome were present to show their support for the plan, highlighting the strategic relevance of the project for both US and Italy.

ABOUT VIRGIN GALACTIC: Virgin Galactic is the world’s first commercial spaceline. Founded by Sir Richard Branson and owned by the Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS, Virgin Galactic and its sister companies-Virgin Orbit and The Spaceship Company–are opening access to space to change the world for good. To revolutionize human spaceflight, Virgin Galactic is testing the SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, a reusable space launch system. The number of customers who paid to reserve places to fly on SpaceShipTwo is already greater than the total number of humans who have ever been to space throughout history. SpaceShipTwo and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, are manufactured and tested in Mojave, California by Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing wing, The Spaceship Company. Commercial operations will be based in New Mexico at Spaceport America, the world’s first purpose-built commercial spaceport. To learn more or to apply to join Virgin Galactic’s talented and growing team, visit virgingalactic.com.

ABOUT THE SPACESHIP COMPANY: The Spaceship Company is Virgin Galactic’s aerospace-system manufacturing sister organization. Headquartered in Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, it is building and testing a fleet of WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft and SpaceShipTwo reusable spaceships that, together, form Virgin Galactic’s human spaceflight system. Like many Virgin companies across the world, its team of over 500 talented and dedicated engineers, technicians and professionals are drawn together by a willingness to disrupt and challenge the status quo and deliver innovative aerospace solutions to our customers’ needs. The Spaceship Company has a straightforward name: as you would expect, we build spaceships. But we also do much more. The Spaceship Company’s extensive capabilities encompass preliminary vehicle design and analysis, manufacturing, ground testing, flight testing and post-delivery support. The Spaceship Company team is uniquely positioned to offer end-to-end aerospace development with thousands of years of cumulative experience in design, manufacturing, and testing.

The United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China Space Station

The First Announcement of Opportunity for Space Experiments on-board China Space Station

APPLY BY DOWNLOADING, COMPLETING AND SUBMITTING THE APPLICATION FORM . DEADLINE: 31 AUGUST 2018

IMPORTANT LINKS:

First Announcement of Opportunity (PDF Format, English)
Application Form (Word Format, English)
Handbook on China Space Station (PDF Format, English)

Leaflet for UN/China Cooperation on China Space Station

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), in cooperation with the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), is pleased to launch the “United Nations/China Cooperation on the Utilization of the China Space Station” programme under the framework of the UNOOSA’s Human Space Technology Initiative (HSTI). Through this programme, UNOOSA intends to capitalize on the technological and innovative skills of the Government of China to benefit Member States of the United Nations, in particular developing countries, thereby contributing to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through increasing access to space.

The programme is jointly implemented by UNOOSA and CMSA. It provides scientists from around the world with an opportunity to conduct their own experiments on board China’s Space Station (CSS). It is an innovative and future-focused programme to open up space exploration activities to all nations and to create a new paradigm in building capabilities in space science and technology.

The Announcement of Opportunity (AO) is the first invitation for scientific experiments on-board the CSS under the programme. The Handbook provides detailed technical information on the CSS and its resources for international cooperation. Applicants need to provide their proposal for space experiments and information on their team in the Application Form, which will be the mainstay for the preliminary selection.

SCOPE OF OPPORTUNITY

Through this Announcement of Opportunity, UNOOSA and CMSA have agreed to provide Member States of the United Nations with three types of opportunities:

Modality 1: Conducting experiments inside the CSS by utilizing experiment payloads developed by selected applicants.
Modality 2: Conducting experiments inside the CSS by utilizing experiment facilities already provided by China.
Modality 3: Conducting experiments outside the CSS by utilizing payloads developed by selected applicants.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA

This opportunity is open to all Member States of the United Nations, with particular attention to developing countries. Public and private organizations with a scientific orientation and fundamental capabilities are eligible to apply. Two or more organizations from developed and developing countries are encouraged to submit a joint application(s). Applicants are responsible for the development of their projects.

APPLICATION SUBMISSION

The fully completed application form, including a signed and stamped endorsement page, must be submitted to UNOOSA by the deadline 31 August 2018 by email and post to the following contact:

c/o: Aimin Niu (Mr.)
United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
United Nations Office at Vienna
Vienna International Centre
P.O. Box 500, A-1400 Vienna, Austria
Phone: (+43 1) 26060-4957
Fax: (+43 1) 26060-5830
Email: aimin.niu@un.org

Press release

United Nations and China invite applications to conduct experiments on-board China’s Space Station (28 May 2018)
United Nations and China agree to increased space cooperation (16 June 2016)