Europe’s own Galileo satellite navigation system has begun operating, with the satellites in space delivering positioning, navigation and timing information to users around the globe.
Galileo Initial Services began operating on 15 December 2016, the first step towards full operational capability. After five years of launches there are now 18 satellites in orbit. The full Galileo constellation will consist of 24 satellites plus orbital spares, intended to prevent any interruption in service.
Galileo is now providing three service types, the availability of which will continue to be improved.
The Open Service is a free mass-market service for users with enabled chipsets in, for instance, smartphones and car navigation systems. Fully interoperable with GPS, combined coverage will deliver more accurate and reliable positioning for users.
Galileo’s Public Regulated Service is an encrypted, robust service for government-authorised users such as civil protection, fire brigades and the police.
The Search and Rescue Service is Europe’s contribution to the long-running Cospas–Sarsat international emergency beacon location. The time between someone locating a distress beacon when lost at sea or in the wilderness will be reduced from up to three hours to just 10 minutes, with its location determined to within 5 km, rather than the previous 10 km.