back to article Space policy boffin: Blighty can't just ctrl-C, ctrl-V plans for Galileo into its Brexit satellite

Space policy expert Dr Bleddyn Bowen, of the University of Leicester, has told The Register that the UK faces considerably more hurdles replacing Galileo than just coughing £92m of "Brexit readiness" readies for a feasibility study on a homegrown version. The good Doctor's comments are timely, as the British government snuck …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Genuine question...

    "Oi, British troops! Why are you standing 5 meters away? You should be over here!"

    On this specific point I think we will manage

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Re: Genuine question...

    >How does the EU expect the UK to take part in NATO exercises (or indeed real battles) if the secret bit of Galileo is denied to us?

    Same way it does now. The USA lets its 'friends' have access to GPS for a certain time in a certain region, therefore it gets to decide what Nato can do and where it can do it.

    It also means that everybody has to buy American made precision weapons.

    The main reason for having a Galileo military channel was the option to sell the Saudis British precision guided weapons and that was also the main reason for the British insisting on keeping foreigners out.

  3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Re: Genuine question...

    How does the EU expect the UK to take part in NATO exercises (or indeed real battles) if the secret bit of Galileo is denied to us?

    You need to do your homework on both NATO as it is at present and the evolution of American strategic thinking. Allies never had a lot of say where and what they do in the past. They have NONE today. At some point during Bush's time Americans rewrote their strategy to rely on total informational awareness of all of their potential major adversaries. They now have the Russians, the Chinese and a couple of other lower priority potential adversaries catalogued and assigned as targets down to sub-battalion level. Not quite down to individual tanks, but not far off. This is maintained 24x7 and if you are gulping at the thought of how much this costs so am I. This is also the explanation for some rank raving lunacies NATO does sometimes, like the continuous exercise of "right to innocent passage" rewritten as "right of intentional pissing" around Crimea and Kaliningrad this summer. When you are addicted to data and you are missing a puzzle piece you will do some rank raving lunacies to obtain it.

    So on the place of Allies in this picture. "Allies" (quotes needed) have NO ACCESS to the complete data set. They are given stuff to do, provided coordinates by the USA and that is the end of it. They are the cogs in the machine. The whole Atlantic council, etc which never had a lot of decision power is now practically just a facade for the American military planning system and their actual expressions like the F35 "logistics and mission planning cloud". If anyone wondered why and how did NATO country procurement swallowed the F35 peculiar "cloud backend" - here is your answer. Take it or leave it.

    So going back to your question - NATO will never use Galileo as the planning system which is totally controlled by the Americans will always rely on GPS and its availability. The only time Galileo military functionality will become of use will be if the Eu army stops being a vanity project. That, however, means at the very least partial dissolution of NATO.

    So actually, the way the power is laid out on the continent at present, the question of military use of Galileo is in the realm of "who gives a f*ck".

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Genuine question...

    >The main reason for having a Galileo military channel was the option to sell the Saudis British precision guided weapons and that was also the main reason for the British insisting on keeping foreigners out.

    And the Yanks asked us to, so that it would keep the Chinese out...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Genuine question...

    nothing really to do with NATO as NATO is nothing to do with the EU and has quite a few non-EU members, Turkey, Canada, Iceland, Norway, etc

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Genuine question...

    How does the EU expect the UK to take part in NATO exercises (or indeed real battles) if the secret bit of Galileo is denied to us?

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    In most cases the non-secret bit is more than good enough. Rarely would the 3m uncertainty in position that I get with a 7 year old automotive GPS unit be inadequate.

    More advanced professional receivers get centimeter range accuracy out of the same signals.

    The Galileo 'civilian' signal is supposed to be more accurate - so a good receiver should better my experience. I think the uncertainty quoted was 1m?

    There is almost no military application that needs better accuracy than that, and there will be four different GNSS systems delivering that - GPS (civilian signal), GLONASS, Beidou, and Galileo (civilian signal).

    Furthermore, You don't need to use the same GNSS systems, you just have to be able to tell where you are.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Genuine question...

    "More advanced professional receivers get centimeter range accuracy out of the same signals."

    Here's another genuine question then:

    How do they do that? Can 'professional receivers' still do it usefully even without differential GPS (or equivalent), even in realtime, even when moving at significant (but unknown) speed?

  8. Lars Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Genuine question...

    "nothing really to do with NATO ".

    i can see your point but "nothing" is a bit strong as it's also true that most of NATO members are EU members too.

    Albania

    Belgium

    Bulgaria

    Canada

    Croatia

    Czech Republic

    Denmark

    Estonia

    France

    Germany

    Greece

    Hungary

    Iceland

    Italy

    Latvia

    Lithuania

    Luxembourg

    Montenegro

    Netherlands

    Norway

    Poland

    Portugal

    Romania

    Slovakia

    For the complete NATO list.

    And there are also some strongly associated countries like Sweden and Finland.

  9. Frank Exchange Of Views

    Re: Genuine question...

    Damn, how did the UK take part in NATO exercises when there wasn't a Galileo in place?

  10. Justthefacts

    Re: Genuine question...

    Trolling, much? You list the EU countries of NATO, but excluding the USA

  11. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Genuine question...

    "i can see your point but "nothing" is a bit strong as it's also true that most of NATO members are EU members too."

    "Trolling, much? You list the EU countries of NATO, but excluding the USA"

    The USA is part of the EU as well now? Good grief, they'll let anyone in now, won't they? First Australia in the Eurovision song contest, now this! Maybe Brexit isn't such a bad idea after all!

  12. Herring`

    Taking back control

    People are missing the massive benefit that a UK positioning system could have. Rather than being shackled to foreign systems like WGS84 - which doesn't even put the Greenwich meridian in the right place - we can use good old OSGB36. Hoorah! Rule Britannia etc.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Given events during the recent NATO exercise in Norway, perhaps Britain should instead consider rejuvenating eLoran (in cooperation with the Americans), to backup existing GNSS.

  14. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Now UK needs a new referendum

    The question should be whether the UK will stay in or leave the International Telecommunications Union.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Now UK needs a new referendum

    "The question should be whether the UK will stay in or leave the International Telecommunications Union."

    WRONG. SO VERY, VERY WRONG.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    eLORAN

    GPS based on satellites have been great for past wars. If we stop fighting those, or come up against an adversary not willing to fight past wars, systems based on fragile satellites will be a down fall.

    Even having a fleet of CubeSats ready to go may not be good enough because of the easy with which the most common orbits can be filled with high velocity mines.

    Maybe the UK should consider using the lunar orbit, but even there at least three nations have "easy" access so that orbit isn't particularly safe.

    Enter eLORAN. An updated GEE system, UK only. Could be very useful except it uses stationary transmitters so would have to be harden against attacks. Might be a way to secure air and water after all anyone in the area with permission wouldn't mind if the GPS systems didn't work, they wouldn't be using them.

    A better system would be one that could be installed quickly, relocated quickly, plentiful and cheap. Maybe bonfires on hill tops? Might just be what it takes to win the next big war.

  17. JohnG Silver badge

    Re: eLORAN

    Given that the US is also looking eLoran, due to concerns about jamming/spoofing of GNSS, we could consider doing something in cooperation with them, at least to ensure some compatibility of equipment.

  18. HelpfulJohn

    Re: eLORAN

    " ... easy [SIC] with which the most common orbits can be filled with high velocity mines."

    "High velocity mines" being clouds of grit, muck, dirt, rubble, rocks, steel scrap and odd-shaped rubbish collected from the spaceport kitchen bins all injected into "wrong-way" orbits so the closing velocities make the exact constitution of the "mines" rather moot.

    Lift a few tons of debris laced with boomy stuff. Make it go boom to spread it about a bit. Several years of orbital region denial achieved. Maybe millennia if the badguys dirty-up the geosynchronous orbits.

    It *IS* rocket science but fairly simple examples thereof.

  19. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    TL;DR

    We're fucked.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: TL;DR

    TL;DR

    Ah, a Remainer, I see.

  21. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Re: TL;DR

    What gave it away?

  22. aeonturnip

    The new quantum accelerometers being developed by Imperial College and partners could, if they can be made small enough, mean we don't need to bother with satellite navigation systems at all - if you have a sufficiently accurate and sensitive accelerometer, and you know where it started, then you can work out where it is precisely.

    Let's give the £92m to Imperial to help them develop this tech instead of spunking it on a stupid proposal to spend a further £Xb, where X > 5.

    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/188973/quantum-compass-could-allow-navigation-without/

  23. Len Silver badge
    Meh

    We'll spend £1 billion and then cancel it

    I know exactly how this is going to pan out. At the end of the £92 million investigation (the outcome of which will be kept secret) it will be decided that the UK should build its own system. Will it be called the Postoffice Imperial Satellite System?

    £1 billion will be spent on it (coincidentally a joint venture between James Dyson and a cousin of Jeremy Hunt will "win" the tender for a large chunk of it) before it gets cancelled as having been a massive waste of money.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Politics has changed. The world has changed.

    "We can never forget that we are the servants of the people - and they are increasingly critical of the way that politicians behave.

    People want an end to the sniping, the point scoring, the ranting and raving that often passes for political debate in Britain today. They want a different kind of government. A government that admits when it's got it wrong. A government that owns up to the fact that it doesn't have all the answers. A government that knows that people's lives are too important for politics to be conducted like a playground game.

    We should take back the lead. We should leave the yah-boo stuff to others and instead behave in a way that gives credibility to our promises.

    Politics has changed. The world has changed.

    In today's Britain, we all know that the old binding ties of family or class, the old habits of deference and unquestioning loyalty, the old tribal allegiances of party politics, all these have gone.

    So today's political parties win not because they only hang on to their traditional supporters, but because they understand how the people of Britain live today, and because they offer them solutions that can work in Britain tomorrow."

    Who do you think May have said that, and when and where and in what role do you think they May have said it?

    No prizes, it's just for fun. For her, anyway. For most of us, it's only our futures that May be wrecked because of her and people like her.

    Happy Christmas. Let's hope it's a good one, for old and for young. Exceptions apply. The value of your career may down as well as down (unless you're in the 0.1%).

    Who said it:

    https://conservative-speeches.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/600753

  25. Killing Time

    Re: Politics has changed. The world has changed.

    Errr... Its an aspiration...It's a straight right at the ERG...

    She was handed a busted flush, compounded it by gambling on a snap election to gain a mandate and ended up hamstrung by the vagaries of the Great British electorate....

    There really are far worse political players in the frame who could balls it up even more. Give her a break!

  26. Velv Silver badge
    Mushroom

    We don't need to worry about building our own, there's loads of others out there we can use.

    Its all really easy once we're free of theses EU shackles - we'll be free just to negotiate our own deals with someone and they're all willing to give us the best deals in the world because we're British, we're important. China will be more than willing to help us use their system, probably give us access for free.

    #Sarcasm. Project Fear? Project Truth as it turns out.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NAVIC

    Just buy the Indian system.

    It can be part of the new trade deal with the sub-continent. Along with of freedom of movement for Indian nationals.

    Brexit means Brexit! Making Britain Great Again! Sovereignty!

  28. Raj

    Re: NAVIC

    The NAVIC constellation of seven IRNSS satellites covers India and 1500kms past its borders. Nothing to do with the UK in any form.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: NAVIC

    ”uk.gov purchases useless technological white elephant shock ... ”

  30. DougS Silver badge

    Why not use them all?

    Surely a single receiver that used publicly available information from all of GPS, Galileo, GLONASS and Beidu would be nearly as accurate as using one homegrown military-accurate alternative? If those were all turned off at once, there is a pretty big war going on and either the UK is allied with one or more of the participants or if it is the UK vs the world will be blown up regardless.

  31. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I'm surprised nobody has come up with the solution close to May's heart. AIUI the UK did the work on the encryption for Galileo. Just put a back door in it that only the UK can use. Problem solved. Let Johnny Foreigner think he's locked us out while we all know better.

  32. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Space policy expert Dr Bleddyn Bowen"

    Another expert. What do they know? We didn't get into the mess we're in where we are today by listening to experts.

  33. CAPS LOCK

    I'm not even sure we need all that satellite malarkey...

    ... After all, with a geographically dispersed Commonwealth and eLoran...

  34. HelpfulJohn

    Aggregated UKish System?

    I know this is probably a naff idea full of holes but could UK-minus-NI-Scot-And-Wales-land not just provide its post-Brexit twenty-man Army with a receiver unit that takes calls from both Galileo and GPS and then aggregates or averages the locations provided to get a better, more precise location than either provides individually?

    A unit that, if in furrin parts, also sucks up data from the Indian, Chinese and Whatnot satellites to provide location data down to the millimetre?

    That way, we don't need new satellites, just new receivers. Receivers are easy and dirt cheap and processors are even cheaper.

    Issue resolved for about a quid per unit?

  35. Seven_Spades

    I think that British scientists are being underestimated here. Given a free hand they are quite capable of doing something differently.

    Remember it was this nation that, invented the light bulb(Swan), the jet engine (Frank Whittle), Broke Enigma(Alan Turing), discovered penicillin (Fleming), TV (john Logie Baird), WWW (Tim Berners-Lee), and the list goes on and on.

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