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Galileo Partners Making Plans, Watching Risks

  • December 9th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

galileo-logo.jpgBuilders of the European satellite navigation system, Galileo, have launched a round of consultations with partners in the project and other interested parties – to explore the full range of services it might deliver.

The European Commission Vice-President, Jacques Barrot, released a discussion document (8.12.06), called a Green Paper on Satellite Navigation Applications.

The document recounts the characteristics of the planned system, which is to rival the Unites States GPS service.

Mr Barrot said Galileo, the “flagship of the European space program,” would offer positioning, navigation and timing services from 2011 or early 2012.

One experimental satellite was already in orbit with a second to follow next year.

It would be “more advanced, more reliable and more efficient” than the American GPS, delivering positioning accuracy to within two metres (against about ten metres for GPS), and a guaranteed continuous signal.

It would be civilian, unlike the military-based American system, which at times had been made unavailable to the public.

Galileo, using thirty satellites in three different circular orbits, with atomic clocks, would give precise information on time and position, to assist many applications, for example: safe and efficient travel; precision farming such as exact applications of fertilizer to terrain; security of online financial transactions; or optimum transfer of electricity along power lines. There would be direct applications for safety, such as use of the system by emergency services, registering the start of forest fires or imaging the impact of natural disasters.

The Vice-President predicted a strong economic performance, with estimates that the satellite navigation market, valued at EU 60-billion (A$100.4-billion; Dcerates) around 2000, would be well over EU 300 billion (A$501.98) within fifteen years. Some 150 000 jobs stood to be created in the EU alone, mainly in high technology research, applications and services sectors.

The project has been launched as a public-private partnership with a consortium of eight partners from different sectors of the European space industry.

Mr Barrot has noted that the construction cost is to be high compared with other major infrastructure projects, though without providing a starting figure.

Asked about the possibility of technical or engineering failures, he said risks had to be taken into account, as part of the agreement contract with partners.

With the concession contract to be signed next year, Mr Barrot has been concentrating on dealing with partners, saying there could be delays with negotiations, but it was important to have clear understandings.

“It is in nobody’s interest to have a delay, but they want to make sure exactly what the rules are, so they will know and not have any nasty surprises.

“That is my main concern, to be ready and able to take this through,” he said.

If the satellite navigation system is to be civilian based and not turned off, what were the security guarantees for the public?

There would be “security assurances” in the operation of the system, and the armed forces would have access to use of it.

There were also privacy and ethical provisions in the regulations to be employed, and the system would be “passive” by design, meaning unaware of a user’s location.

An agreement was concluded with the United Sates on the inter-operability of the two global navigational systems two years ago.

Co-operation agreements have been concluded, or were in preparation with China, Israel, Ukraine, South Korea, India, Morocco, Norway and Argentina.

Discussions had begun with Australia, Brazil, Canada, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.

Reference:

Galileo: European Satellite Navigation System, http:ec.europa.eu/dgs/energy_transport/galileo/index_en.htm

Green Paper on Satellite Navigation Applications (presented by the Commission), COM(2006)…; Commission of the European Communities, Brussels. 8.12.06

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