The UK Government is reportedly providing £500 million as part of one of the bids for the partially completed OneWeb low Earth orbit (LEO) communications satellite constellation, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. With a UK version of the EU’s Galileo navigation system – which the UK has been frozen out of – deemed unaffordable (at circa £5 billion), the idea is that navigation payloads could be added to the spacecraft to offer the equivalent of a GPS/Galileo navsat service from LEO.

Arianespace released this image showing how the OneWeb satellites will be carried. Courtesy: Arianespace

There is known to be a certain “redundancy” attraction to NATO allies in having access to a military/civil navigation low Earth orbit satellite service with a different type of architecture to that of the EU’s Galileo and USA’s GPS, both of which are located in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO). Nevertheless, there are some serious questions over the technology readiness for the proposed OneWeb navigation payload.

So far 74 OneWeb satellites have been launched out of a total of 650 for the complete constellation.  The maiden flight of Ariane 6 was supposed to be used for a OneWeb launch which now on hold following the Chapter 11 announcement.