UK will be kicked out of EU programme that keeps it safe from space debris hurtling towards Earth in event of no-deal Brexit, government warns

Science

The UK will be kicked out of the programme that warns the country if dangerous satellites or debris are plunging towards the Earth, the government has warned.

At the moment, the country is part of the EUSST programme, which gives Europe a space surveillance and tracking system to watch the skies above the Earth. One of its most important responsibilities is to look for objects that unexpectedly dropping to the Earth, so that the continent could co-ordinate its response.

If the EU and the UK are unable to come to a Brexit deal, it will be kicked out of that arrangement, the UK government has warned. That would leave it without important information intended to keep the country’s population safe.

But it said that it would still continue to receive warnings from the US, whatever happened in Europe.

The EUSST programme was set up in 2014. It has three main responsibilities: watching for collisions in the space above Earth, analysing fragmentation from space vehicles and watching for satellites or debris coming back to earth on a scheduled or unscheduled basis.

If no deal was reached over Brexit, then the UK Space Agency would no longer have any part in that programme. In March 2019, the UK will be kicked out, and it will not receive information or be able to contribute towards its work.

It also provides information to private UK satellite companies, which is not linked to the government’s involvement. Officials said they did not know what would happen to those in the event of a no-deal Brexit and that it was seeking further information.

The British space industry is set to be one of the most affected by Brexit and the possibility of no deal. Much of its work is done through the European Space Agency as well as other collaborative projects.

The debris tracking programme is far from the only one to be affected by not reaching a deal. It would also hit the Galileo space programme – a major project to offer an alternative to GPS, to which the UK has already contributed significant funding and work – as well as the Copernicus Earth observation programme.

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