Space X confirms deployment of 60 Starlink satellites
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Britain “strongly objected” to being excluded from the EU’s Galileo satellite programme after the Brexit vote. A leaked paper at the time showed how Britain wanted the project to be a “core component” of any future UK-EU security relationship. It was unsuccessful in its requests despite having invested £1.2billion into the project.
Earlier this year, the UK’s final big industrial contribution to the Galileo Sat Nav system was delivered.
But that did not mark the end of the UK’s space and satellite endeavours.
It has struck a deal with Elon Musk and the billionaire’s Starlink system, a satellite constellation operated by his SpaceX which hopes to provide internet access to some of the most impenetrable parts of the world.
Now, Mr Musk is planning on building a satellite station on the Isle of Man in order to blanket Britain with Starlink broadband, reports suggest.
Starlink already has bases in Buckinghamshire and Cornwall, the intention of another, larger base, to provide the UK with high-speed, high-spec, faultless and comparatively cheap internet.
While developments plough ahead in the UK with Starlink, the Galileo project has hit a number of obstacles in recent years.
Perhaps its biggest failure came in 2019 when the entire system went offline.
The error was not rectified for a full week.
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This left many commercial users without service, and with “fluctuations” when service did finally return.
Many said the outage served as a “warning” of the threat of satellite timing and navigation system failures, and what it might mean in the wider context.
At the time, John Sheehy, vice president of sales and strategy at the security firm IOActive, told Wired: “Most large, complex systems like this go through some initial problems early on, but this does seem to be a little bit worse than one would expect.
“It’s most likely related to the relative newness of the environment and the relative inexperience of the team.”
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The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency, known as GSA, said the outage was caused by a “technical incident originated by an equipment malfunction in the Galileo control centres that calculate time and orbit predictions, and which are used to compute the navigation message”.
Many were surprised that the EU team could not manually workaround the system in order to find a quick and easy solution.
Luckily for the bloc, the outage did not allow for any digital or physical saboteurs.
Yet, the idea that the system had a weakness was set into motion, with many international bad actors able to take advantage of such a mistake.
Starlink, meanwhile, has been hailed as solving almost every problem previously found with satellite broadband coverage.
Forums are filled with simple solutions: Access gap? Starlink; data caps? Starlink – the list goes on.
It has had its fair share of outages, but none have lasted more than a few days, and have always been swiftly rectified.
Users have reported that on average, Starlink works “flawlessly”.
Brussels’ project is believed to be falling far behind Starlink, which already has 1,800 satellites in orbit.
Shagun Sachdeva, founder of space consultancy Kosmic Apple, recently said that the EU “cannot meet Starlink or even OneWeb’s timing. However, the benefits from not being first in the market is that they can learn and take advantage of economies of scale that will lead to prices coming down.”
The EU knows it is lagging in the race to create the first widely used low-earth-orbit internet connectivity.
One satellite industry insider speaking to the Sunday Telegraph said: “They are looking with envy at Starlink, OneWeb and the Chinese projects.”
European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said that his “objective is to go fast” to create a European rival to Starlink.
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