Four more Galileo satellites were successfully launched Wednesday from the European spaceport in French Guiana on the European launcher Ariane-5. Now with a constellation of 26 satellites, the EU’s global satellite navigation system will provide a more precise signal across a range of valuable services.
Galileo has been providing positioning and timing services to around 400 million users since December 2016. The launch today brings the constellation close to completion in 2020, which is when Galileo will reach full operational capability. Once complete and with a record precision of 20cm, Galileo will be the most precise satellite navigation system in the world.
Space may be far away but its technology, data and services have become indispensable in our daily lives, be it in rescue searches, connected cars, smart watches, farming or plane navigation. The European space industry is strong and competitive, creating jobs and business opportunities for entrepreneurs. For the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to bring all existing and new space activities under the umbrella of one single €16 billion ‘EU Space Programme‘.
Vice-President of the Commission Maroš Šefčovič said: “Another milestone towards the full operational capability of Galileo in 2020! Space is becoming a new economic frontier, as it is vitally linked to a growing number of sectors and driving their profound modernisation. In fact, 10% of the EU’s GDP is dependent on space-related services. We therefore need to strive for Europe’s global leadership and strategic autonomy.”
Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs, who led the European Commission delegation to Kourou (French Guiana), said: “We can be very proud of our successful space activities. Europe has become a true space power. From the start of the mandate I had clear goals: develop the infrastructure on time and on budget, deliver first services and ensure rapid market uptake. Today we can say – we made it. But work and investment will go on under the new EU Space Programme.”
Galileo currently provides three types of satellite navigation based services:
- Galileo Open Service: a free service for positioning, navigation and timing. The timing service is increasingly robust, accurate and fast (in order of nanoseconds) compared to other location systems. It enables the eCall system, which has been mandatory in all new cars in the EU since 31 March 2018, to communicate the vehicle’s location to emergency services.
- Galileo’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Service: localisation of distress signals from an enabled beacon. With the start of Galileo initial services in December 2016, the time it takes to detect a person lost at sea or in the mountains after a distress beacon is activated was reduced from up to 4 hours to about 10 minutes . The accuracy of localisation has improved too, from 10 km without Galileo to less than 2 km with Galileo. As of next year, the service will also send back a signal informing the person in danger that the distress signal has been picked up and localised.
- Galileo Public Regulated Service (PRS): an encrypted service designed for public authorities for security sensitive use, for instance military operations. PRS aims at ensuring service continuity, even in the most adverse environment. It offers a particularly robust and fully encrypted service for government users during national emergencies or crisis situations, such as terrorist attacks.
Anyone with a Galileo enabled device is able to use its signals for positioning, navigation and timing. Galileo services are based on highly accurate signals, but during the current initial phase they are not available all the time and therefore are used in combination with other satellite navigation systems such as GPS. Every addition to the constellation gradually improves Galileo availability and performance worldwide. Once the constellation reaches 30 satellites in 2020, Galileo will be fully operational and independent, meaning that a position could be established autonomously everywhere and anytime using Galileo satellites only.