Today’s navigation satellites, such as the USA’s GPS (Global Positioning System), can tell you with a precision of a few metres where you are and how to get to where you need to go. Europe's global navigation satellite system, called Galileo, will introduce shortly a new level of sophistication, accuracy and reliability. Another European satellite system called EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), which augments the signals of GPS over Europe, is already operational today and used in aviation where it significantly increases safety.
The third and fourth satellites of Europe’s Galileo global navigation satellite system were lofted into orbit on 12 October 2012 from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on a Soyuz rocket. They join the first pair of satellites launched on 21 October 2011 to complete the validation phase of the Galileo programme. Upon completion of in-orbit checks, a further 14 satellites will be deployed and initial services provided. European businesses and citizens will then have direct access to a European satellite navigation system providing timely information to an infinite number of sectors such as transport, customs services, search and rescue systems and leisure.
Galileo in brief
- Galileo will be Europe's own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civil control. It is financed by the EU and implemented by ESA.
- The services that people in the street will use most in their domestic navigation systems will be free of charge ('Open Service'), but there will also be services requiring authorisation ('Public Regulated Service' - PRS) which will provide special satellite signals, notably for the use of public authorities, services to be used in situations of distress or imminent danger ('Search & Rescue Service'), services which will allow commercial developments, and finally services with a guaranteed satellite signal accuracy at every moment ('Safety-of-Life Service'), which will be used, for example, in aviation.
- The full system will consist of 30 satellites as well as associated ground stations worldwide.
- Social and economic benefits of around €90 billion are expected over the next 20 years.