UK space comes to an 'understanding' with Australia as Brexit looms

Countries agree to cooperate on satellite navigation as Blighty faces becoming a third country in Galileo


The UK and Australia have announced plans to become the best of buddies in the space field, including the UK’s current hot potato: satellite navigation.

The memorandum of understanding, which was signed this week by Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, Graham Turnock, and head of the fledgling Australian Space Agency (ASA), Dr Megan Clark AC, will see collaboration efforts between the two countries in the arena of communications, space situational awareness and, of course satellite navigation.

The UK has begun to face up to an increasingly likely scenario where it will be relegated to mere “third country” status or ejected entirely from programmes such as the prestigious Galileo navigation system or the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme thanks to shambolic Brexit negotiations.

As Blighty stares at a glorious, post-Brexit future, the UK space sector needs all the friends it can get. The UK will, of course, remain part of the European Space Agency. But as EU funded work dries up, getting a foot in the door with non-EU agencies such as ASA is a sensible move. With a UK version of the Galileo system looking ever more likely, “cooperation” with Australia over satellite navigation could well ease the financial blow somewhat.

Woomera: Ghosts of Britain's space past

READ MORE

Sadly, the current memorandum of understanding does not yet extend to launch sites, which will disappoint those that remember the glory days of the British rocket programme up to its demise in 1971. After launching a number of Black Knight rockets from the Australian Woomera launch complex, the UK managed to send its Prospero satellite in orbit atop the fourth, and final, Black Arrow launch in October 1971, a few months after the project was axed. To date, the UK remains the only country to have the dubious honour of developing an orbital launch system and then dumping it.

A UK Space Agency spokesperson told The Register that a return to Woomera was not on the cards, as the UK seeks to develop domestic horizontal and vertical launch capabilities. As for the mooted Galileo substitute, it is “early days”. With only A$41m ($29m/£22.3m spread over four years) at its disposal, the ASA, which came into existence on 1 July 2018, is unlikely to be able to make much of a financial contribution in the short term, although it does list “Positioning, Navigation and Timing infrastructure” as an initial priority.

Australia already has a well-established network of ground stations and 10,000 people working in its space sector.

Of the memorandum, UK science minister Sam Gyimah remarked: “This agreement is a great example of the importance of international collaboration and how, through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are working with our growing space sector to ensure it continues to thrive.”

Australia, on the other hand, was quick to ensure the Brits understood that, despite the rich history between the nations, this was to be very much an open relationship, as Hon Karen Andrews MP, Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology commented: “These agreements with counterpart space agencies in Canada and the United Kingdom will increase opportunities to work together and share information, technology and personnel between our nations.” ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Uncle Sam to clip wings of Pegasus-like spyware – sorry, 'intrusion software' – with proposed export controls

    Surveillance tech faces trade limits as America syncs policy with treaty obligations

    More than six years after proposing export restrictions on "intrusion software," the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has formulated a rule that it believes balances the latitude required to investigate cyber threats with the need to limit dangerous code.

    The BIS on Wednesday announced an interim final rule that defines when an export license will be required to distribute what is basically commercial spyware, in order to align US policy with the 1996 Wassenaar Arrangement, an international arms control regime.

    The rule [PDF] – which spans 65 pages – aims to prevent the distribution of surveillance tools, like NSO Group's Pegasus, to countries subject to arms controls, like China and Russia, while allowing legitimate security research and transactions to continue. Made available for public comment over the next 45 days, the rule is scheduled to be finalized in 90 days.

    Continue reading
  • Global IT spending to hit $4.5 trillion in 2022, says Gartner

    The future's bright, and expensive

    Corporate technology soothsayer Gartner is forecasting worldwide IT spending will hit $4.5tr in 2022, up 5.5 per cent from 2021.

    The strongest growth is set to come from enterprise software, which the analyst firm expects to increase by 11.5 per cent in 2022 to reach a global spending level of £670bn. Growth has fallen slightly, though. In 2021 it was 13.6 per cent for this market segment. The increase was driven by infrastructure software spending, which outpaced application software spending.

    The largest chunk of IT spending is set to remain communication services, which will reach £1.48tr next year, after modest growth of 2.1 per cent. The next largest category is IT services, which is set to grow by 8.9 per cent to reach $1.29tr over the next year, according to the analysts.

    Continue reading
  • Memory maker Micron moots $150bn mega manufacturing moneybag

    AI and 5G to fuel demand for new plants and R&D

    Chip giant Micron has announced a $150bn global investment plan designed to support manufacturing and research over the next decade.

    The memory maker said it would include expansion of its fabrication facilities to help meet demand.

    As well as chip shortages due to COVID-19 disruption, the $21bn-revenue company said it wanted to take advantage of the fact memory and storage accounts for around 30 per cent of the global semiconductor industry today.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021