Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) of Guildford, UK, shipped the last of the Galileo navigation payloads under its manufacture at the end of November 2020, the European Space Agency (ESA) stated. As a consequence of Brexit, the UK will no longer participate actively in Galileo.
SSTL assembled all 34 full operation capability (FOC) payloads for Galileo over its 15-year involvement in the program, beginning with the first in-orbit validation satellite, GIOVE-A, built at a fast pace to secure Galileo broadcast frequencies at a critical time. Without that 2005 launch, Galileo would probably not exist today.
The last British-made payloads travelled to the ESA/ESTEC technical center in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where technicians installed security elements that the British lab was not permitted to handle. They will next go to OHB-Systems in Bremen, Germany, to be installed on satellite chassis and undergo pre-launch testing.
The European Union defines Galileo as a security program, therefore only companies from its 27 member states can perform sensitive work, such as payload integration. “There may be small exceptions for certain components that come out of the UK which we can’t get anywhere else. But this is what it is. This is the political reality of the day,” said Paul Verhoef, ESA’s navigation director.
[Image: Galileo payload under assembly at STTL. Photo courtesy SSTL.]