Galileo Stakes Europe's Claim in Battle of Satellites

By Castle, Stephen | The Independent (London, England), December 27, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Galileo Stakes Europe's Claim in Battle of Satellites


Castle, Stephen, The Independent (London, England)


The first of Europe's constelation of 30 navigation satellites " part of a multi-billion-euro system called Galileo " is due to blast into orbit from Kazakstan tomorrow.

The scheduled launch of the 600kg, British-built satellite on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome will mark the start of the European Commission and the European Space Agency's most ambitious technical and scientific venture, organisers said.

The Galileo project, which is designed to rival America's Global Positioning System, aims to revolutionise industries including transport and will be used in maritime, rail and other navigation systems. Road-pricing schemes will become easier to run and driverless cars a possibility.

With a host of applications in areas such as fisheries, agriculture, oil prospecting, building and telecommunications, Galileo is expected to create more than 140,000 jobs in Europe and to generate EUR200bn (pounds 140bn) in services per year by 2013.

Some of Europe's biggest technology firms are behind the project, having won the right to operate the 30 satellites circling the globe in three orbits at an altitude of around 23,000km.

Its designers say the European project will deliver real-time positioning down to within metres with unrivalled accuracy. Galileo is designed to be inter-operable with the two other global navigation systems, America's GPS and Russia's Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass).

The test satellite, built by Surrey Satellite Technology of Guildford, will try out new technologies such as the on-board atomic clocks and signal generators. It will also secure access to the Galileo frequencies allocated by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Known as the Giove-A (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) the satellite will circle the planet at an orbit of 23,222km (14,430 miles). A second satellite, Giove-B, built by the European consortium Galileo Industries, is being tested and will be launched early in 2006.

This week's launch is under the control of Surrey Satellite's Technology's own ground station.

Preparations for lift-off were said to be going well. Once the satellite is in orbit, the Galileo signals broadcast back to earth by Giove-A will be carefully analysed by the ground station to make sure they satisfy the criteria laid down by the ITU. European hopes of rivalling US dominance of space in the civil domain rest on the success of the launch.

Despite the massive potential economic benefits, Galileo has been a controversial project, not least with the US which was alarmed at the possibility that the system could have defence applications.

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