Plans for a £414m meteorological satellite, Metop-1, to be built by Anglo-French firm Matra Marconi Space, has been delayed because of the UK’s general election.
Britain has been unable to commit its promised £38m – 7% of the European Space Agency’s contribution – during the election campaign.
The appointment of a new technology minister will mean the British National Space Centre renegotiating approval for the money.
`At best there will be a delay,’ said a BNSC official. `But it could lead to the demise of the programme.’
At stake is up to £35m of work for Matra Marconi Space in the UK, which will make the platform for the satellite, and hundreds of millions of pounds for the prime contractor MMS in France.
Problems with the deal have been compounded by more severe problems in France, which has to channel funds into the second Ariane rocket due to launch in September.
French state-owned company Aerospatiale, which has to contribute to the Ariane rocket has balked at handing over its 22% share of ESA’s commitment.