Toward a European Space Force

By Mowthorpe, Matthew | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

Toward a European Space Force


Mowthorpe, Matthew, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


Europe is seeking to increase its independence in the realm of military space. In order to meet this aspiration, Europe is reassessing its space assets requirements and has decided to acquire an independent navigation positioning system in the form of the Galileo project, as well as reconnaissance assets under the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) system. These two systems are deemed enough to enable Europe to be self-sufficient in the realm of space. However, the United States has raised concern over Europe's Galileo system. This article examines these two systems along with the potential competition between the United States and Europe regarding future development of a reusable space launch vehicle.

Keywords: GNSS (Galileo); GPS; EU; Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES).

Galileo - Europe's Global Positional System

The GNSS (Galileo) satellite navigation project is part of the critical infrastructure policy of the EU and refers to active and intended market adjustment intervention to ensure that large-scale, technology-intensive infrastructures of vital interest are developed and maintained. As such, the Galileo system is able to:

* strengthen European transport infrastructures (aviation, land transport, and maritime) and the functioning of other structures

* create positive macro-economic effects, user benefits, industrial competitiveness and employment

* increase Europe's strategic control and ownership, strengthening its position in the world.2

The Galileo program is a core element of the EU's transport policy. The Galileo project is being developed jointly with the European Space Agency as a civilian and commercially oriented radio navigation system under private-sector operational control. The deadline for occupying the Galileo frequency bands under the International Telecommunications Union rules is the first half of 2006. If this deadline is not met there is a risk that the frequency bands will be forfeited. The EU therefore launched a piggyback testbed payload of four satellites in 2004.3 The remaining satellites in the 30 medium-Earth-orbit fleet are due to be launched during 2005-2008. Also, Europe wants to begin operation of Galileo before the US next-generation GPS III is launched, as it is scheduled to be in 2010.4

Galileo provides three levels of service: an open-access service (OAS); a commercial-access service (CAS); and a public service (consisting of safety-oriented and regulated services). The open-access is freely available and has an access of within 6 meters and a service availability of 99%. The commercial service includes a charging mechanism to generate revenue. One area of contention is that the international civil aviation opposes any encryption of safety-critical services. The public-regulated service is aimed toward emergency services, humanitarian operations and implementation of EU transport policies such as road tolling. A central and somewhat controversial issue has been whether Galileo should provide a Governmental Access Service (GAS). This has the most serious consequences for military security.

Galileo was built by a consortium. Thales had a 12% stake, with Alcatel Space, Alenio Spazio, Astrium Germany and Astrium UK each holding 19%, and Galileo Sistemas y Servicios, a group of Spanish firms, holding 12%.5

The Economic Benefits of Galileo

Since Europe, unlike the United States' GPS System, guarantees part of the signal, Galileo may be used for air traffic control, financial transactions and other applications involving legal liability.6 Galileo should have a communication payload to transfer navigation information. This would enable income to be generated from truck, taxi and bus fleets.

The cumulative economic and social benefit of Galileo to Europe up to 2020 is conservatively estimated at 24 billion Euros, with a total investment cost of 6 billion Euros. …

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