Galileo (satellite navigation)

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Galileo is a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) currently being built by the European Union (EU) and European Space Agency (ESA). The €3.4 billion project is named after the famous Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei. One of the political aims with Galileo is to provide a high-accuracy positioning system upon which European nations can rely independent from the Russian GLONASS and US GPS systems which can be disabled for commercial users in times of war or conflict.[1]

When in operation, it will use the two ground operations centers, one near Munich, Germany, and another in Fucino, Italy and will consist of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares).[2] The first experimental satellite, GIOVE-A, was launched in 2005 and was followed by a second test satellite, GIOVE-B, launched in 2008. The first four operational satellites for navigation will be launched in 2011 and once this In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase has been completed, additional satellites will be launched. On 30 November 2007 the 27 EU transportation ministers involved reached an agreement that it should be operational by 2013,[3] but later press releases suggest it was delayed to 2014.[4]

The navigation system is intended to provide measurements down to the meter range as a free service including the height (altitude) above sea level, and better positioning services at high latitudes compared to GPS and GLONASS. Though with recent upgrades on GPS similar accuracy levels are reached. As a further feature, Galileo will provide a global Search and Rescue (SAR) function. To do so, each satellite will be equipped with a transponder, which is able to transfer the distress signals from the user transmitters to the Rescue Co-ordination Centre, which will then initiate the rescue operation. At the same time, the system will provide a signal to the user, informing him that his situation has been detected and that help is under way. This latter feature is new and is considered a major upgrade compared to the existing GPS and GLONASS navigation systems which do not provide feedback to the user.[5] The use of basic (low-accuracy) Galileo services will be free and open to everyone. The high-accuracy capabilities will be available for paying commercial users and for military use.

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