Four of the EU’s Galileo satellites launched yesterday, bringing the total number of the project’s global navigation system satellites in orbit to 26.
The satellites launched from Kourou, French Guiana, yesterday on the launcher Ariane-5, and will join the EU’s Galileo network of global navigation system satellites, which is due to enter into operation in 2020 with a total of 30 satellites. The network seeks to revolutionise Europe’s global positioning and satellite navigation capabilities by delivering unprecedented precision.
When it is complete and fully operational, Galileo expects to be the most precise satellite navigation system in the world, with a record precision of 20cm. Further, the system will be completely independent, without relying on additional information from external satellites or systems to facilitate its global positioning applications. This means that the system could have a variety of valuable applications once it enters into operation.
What kind of services could Galileo provide?
The primary service that Galileo will deliver is a free service for positioning, navigation and timing, which has a variety of applications. New devices that must be installed in all new cars can be used to position them at all times and communicate location information to emergency services in the event of an accident.
The global navigation system satellites will also offers an encrypted service for public authorities to use in security-sensitive situations, such as law enforcement or military applications. Since the first Galileo satellites launched in 2016, the time it takes to locate the source of an emergency beacon dropped from four hours to ten minutes, and can now pinpoint the location to within 2km.
How does this further the EU’s space ambitions?
According to European Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the success of Galileo’s operations thus far has contributed to a renewed ambition to expand Europe’s space-based activities. In recognition of this, the European Commission has proposed a €16bn space programme to launch under the next multiannual financial framework.
Bieńkowska stated: “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.”