HIGH-TECH satellite system production will be protected in Portsmouth after a £92m government fund was created, an MP has insisted.
Business secretary Greg Clark announced the new windfall, which will be pumped into creating Britain’s very own GPS navigation system.
The cash is being seen as a trade liferaft, helping the UK distance itself from the European Union’s Galileo satellite programme – which has been at the centre of a political row between Whitehall and Brussels – and expand its homegrown satellite industry.
Galileo is being built by aerospace giant, Airbus and has a control base located in Hilsea.
However, European bureaucrats have demanded that when Britain leaves the EU after Brexit, the nation has nothing to do with Galileo, citing security fears as their main reason.
This has put scores of jobs at risk in Portsmouth, which would see Airbus relocating its satellite tech hub – which controls Galileo – from the city and to Europe.
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said the new cash from Whitehall would protect the city’s tech firm.
The staunch Brexiteer said: ‘The UK is investing huge sums into space technology.
‘It is not necessary for the EU to deny us access to Galileo, but they appear to be determined to do so.
‘But as well as funding for a replacement for Galileo we are also investing in capability and capacity in the UK, including our own launch capabilities.
‘The space sector here will be booming and Airbus should and is feel robust.’
Satellite navigation systems like GPS are increasingly important for commercial, military and other critical applications, from guiding aircraft, ships and emergency services to helping millions of people find their way on car journeys.
A government study estimated that sustained disruption to satellite navigation would cost the UK economy £1bn per day.
The latest £92m fund has been allocated from the £3bn Brexit readiness fund, announced in last year’s budget, and led by the UK Space Agency.
Mr Clark said Britain was a ‘world leader’ in the space industry and satellites. He added: Britain has the skills, expertise and commitment to create our own sovereign satellite system and I am determined that we take full advantage of the opportunities this brings, backed by our modern industrial strategy.’
The new satellite would be essential to future UK military and security operations.
As part of that, a specific set of technical proposals will be developed by the Ministry of Defence.
The 18-month engineering, design and development project will deliver a detailed technical assessment and schedule of a UK global positioning system.
This would provide both civilian and encrypted signals and be compatible with the US GPS system.
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: ‘The danger space poses as a new front for warfare is one of my personal priorities, and it is absolutely right that we waste no time in going it alone if we need an independent satellite system to combat those emerging threats.
‘This alternative system and the UK’s very first defence space strategy which I will launch later this year will be a further boost to military skills, our innovative businesses and our genuinely world-leading role which has seen us make such a key contribution to Galileo.’