Guidance

UK involvement in the EU Space Programme

How the UK participates in the EU Space Programme, including Copernicus and EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST).

The EU Space Programme includes the following components:

  • the European satellite navigation programmes, Galileo and European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS)
  • the Copernicus Earth Observation programme
  • the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) programme
  • the Governmental Satellite Communications (GovSatCom) programme (a new EU programme)

The UK maintains access to EUSST services and is seeking full participation in the Copernicus component.

The UK’s membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) is not affected by leaving the EU as ESA is not an EU organisation.

Galileo and EGNOS

The UK no longer participates in the EU Galileo or EGNOS programmes.

Actions for businesses, academics and researchers

Any UK businesses, academics and researchers currently contracted or expecting to carry out contracts on programmes in which the UK no longer participates should contact the relevant contracting authority to make sure that arrangements are in place to comply with the conditions of the contract and to avoid possible penalties.

Organisations in the UK and in UK Overseas Territories that currently hold ground infrastructure hosting contracts may wish to contact their contracting authority, such as the European Space Agency or the EU Global Navigation Satellite System Agency, to verify the future position.

UK users should not use the EGNOS Safety of Life (SoL) service.

UK users no longer have access to the EGNOS Data Access Service (EDAS).

Areas of UK involvement

For the public and most UK, EU and other satellite navigation users, there should be no noticeable impact. For example, devices such as smart phones can still use Galileo and EGNOS.

UK businesses and organisations are able to use the freely available ‘open’ signal to develop products and services for consumers, and can use the open position, navigation and timing services provided by Galileo and EGNOS.

EU subsidiaries of UK businesses are eligible to bid for future work on the EU Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) programmes.

Areas where UK involvement has come to an end

The UK:

  • does not use Galileo (including the future Public Regulated Service (PRS)) for defence or critical national infrastructure
  • does not have access to the encrypted Galileo Public Regulated Service
  • cannot play any part in the development of Galileo
  • cannot play any part in the development of EGNOS
  • should not use the EGNOS SoL service and EGNOS Working Agreements (EWAs), which are no longer recognised by the EU

This also means that UK-based businesses, academics and researchers cannot bid for future EU GNSS contracts and may face difficulty carrying out and completing existing contracts.

Copernicus

The UK welcomes the agreement in principle for the UK to continue to participate in the Copernicus component of the EU Space Programme as a third country for 2021 to 2027.

Now that the EU Space Regulation has been finalised, we expect the confirmation of the UK’s participation in the Copernicus component to be made as soon as possible in 2021, to ensure the UK receives a fair balance of rights in return for an appropriate financial contribution.

Actions for businesses, academics and researchers if the UK confirms its participation in the Copernicus component

If the UK confirms in 2021 that we will participate in Copernicus, we expect UK-based businesses, academics and researchers will then be able to bid for future Copernicus contracts tendered through the EU, funded through the EU’s Multi-annual Financial Framework and through any process using EU procurement rules.

Similarly, we expect UK users will also be able to access most of the Copernicus data and services. It is anticipated that UK would not have access to a small proportion of data considered to be security sensitive.

Until the agreement on UK participation in Copernicus is finalised, the UK will not be able to participate in the parts of the Copernicus programme that are open only to EU member states. For example, UK-based businesses, academics and researchers will not be able to bid for Copernicus contracts tendered through the EU, funded through the EU’s Multi-annual Financial Framework or through any process using EU procurement rules after December 2020.

We would encourage UK-based entities holding extant contracts to confirm arrangements with their relevant contracting authority.

UK membership of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Mercator Ocean is unaffected, as these are European rather than EU bodies. Those organisations retain access to high-bandwidth data that supports the Land, Marine, Climate Change and Atmosphere services.

UK organisations could previously bid for Copernicus contracts tendered through ECMWF and Mercator Ocean. Until the Copernicus agreement is implemented, UK organisations cannot bid for Copernicus Services contracts except in exceptional circumstances that need to be justified to the European Commission.

Until the agreement is finalised and implemented, some UK users may lose the right to high-bandwidth access to the standard data from Copernicus Sentinels. Some UK users may also lose access to data sourced by Copernicus from Contributing Missions. UK users will not have access to data deemed security sensitive. UK-based Copernicus data users should consider the impact that losing access to any data or information not sourced under the free and open data policy may have on their operations.

Areas where UK involvement continues under all circumstances

The UK remains a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and continues to participate in the Copernicus Space Component (CSC-4) of the Copernicus programme through ESA. This allows UK entities to continue to be able to bid for contracts tendered through ESA for CSC-4, its predecessor the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) programme, or under other programmes such as the Earth Observation Envelope Programme 5 (EOEP5) and Future EO-1.

Copernicus has a free and open data policy which means that the data produced by its satellites (Sentinels) and the Land, Marine, Climate Change and Atmosphere services are freely available to UK users.

UK membership of the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and Mercator Ocean is unaffected, as these are European rather than EU bodies. Those organisations retain access to high-bandwidth data that supports the Land, Marine, Climate Change and Atmosphere services.

UK organisations could previously bid for Copernicus contracts tendered through ECMWF and Mercator Ocean. It is not yet clear whether this is still possible and will only become clear once the EU has finalised agreements with their Entrusted Entities (including ECMWF and Mercator Ocean).

Subsidiaries of UK organisations that are based in the EU and EU-based researchers using Copernicus data and services are unaffected from 1 January 2021.

The UK continues to be part of the Sentinel 6/Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS) mission. We expect that UK-based entities holding extant contracts in the Sentinel 6/Jason-CS mission will continue to be able to deliver that work. We encourage UK-based entities holding those contracts to confirm arrangements with their relevant contracting authority.

Space surveillance and tracking

The UK welcomes the agreement that UK users can continue to access EU Space Surveillance and Tracking services. This will help to manage the risk of collisions in space from space debris and satellites.

Whilst UK users can continue to receive services, the UK is no longer eligible to participate in the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme.

The UK continues to receive space surveillance and tracking data from the US.

Actions for businesses, academics and researchers

There should be no noticeable impact or disruption to space surveillance services for UK users already registered with the EU. New users from the UK need to apply in the same way as they did before. 

Areas where UK involvement has come to an end

The UK does not participate in the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking programme, contribute to providing services to the programme or take part in the scientific and technical groups that make up the programme.

UK involvement in the European Space Agency

The UK’s membership of the European Space Agency (ESA) is not affected by leaving the EU as the ESA is not an EU organisation. Companies and other organisations should continue to apply for ESA programmes and contracts in the normal way.

UK entities that participate in ESA programmes should continue to follow the existing rules around exemptions from taxes and duties. These rules are set out in the European Space Agency (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1978 (in particular articles 10 to 12). The HMRC guidance on diplomatic privileges should be followed.

More information

Businesses, academics and researchers with existing contracts relating to these programmes, or who use data and services, may contact the UK Space Agency at info@ukspaceagency.gov.uk with any questions or concerns.

Organisations who get Horizon 2020 research programme funding, or who are bidding for funding, can find more information in the Horizon 2020 guidance.

Published 31 December 2020
Last updated 27 August 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated to reflect the EU’s adoption of its Space Programme Regulations.

  2. We have added more information on how organisations should work with the European Space Agency.

  3. First published.