30 December 2002
Despite the determined efforts of the European Space Agency’s Executive at a meeting of the ESA Council a little under a fortnight ago (on 11 and 12 December), it has not proved possible to get unanimous agreement on ESA’s participation in the Galileo project. Although thirteen of the Agency’s Member States were ready to accept a compromise solution in the common interest, two (Germany and Spain) were unable to do so.
In the words of Antonio Rodotà, ESA Director General, “This is a hard blow for Europe. The entire space industry in Europe will badly suffer from this break in the negotiations.”
He went on to say that, “While keenly aware of the economic, industrial and strategic importance of satellite navigation, our Member States failed to reach an agreement, thereby delaying the start of the project’s development and validation phase.”
The ESA Executive will be renewing its efforts to get the Galileo project back on track immediately after the Christmas break.
Galileo is intended to complement the existing satellite navigation system, which relies entirely on GPS, the American Global Positioning System. Developed by ESA and the EU on the basis of equal co-funding, Galileo is designed to provide a complete civil system. Scheduled to be operational by 2008, it will offer the citizens of Europe and the world an accurate and secure satellite positioning capability.
A broad range of applications will be supported by the system: control of road, rail, air and sea traffic, synchronised data transmission between computers, and many others. Projections point to very significant economic benefits, with a return on investment of 4.6 and creation of over 140 000 jobs.
The Galileo system will be built around 30 satellites (27 operational and 3 reserve craft) occupying three circular earth orbits, inclined at 56° to the Equator, at an altitude of 23 616 km. This configuration will provide excellent coverage of the planet. Two Galileo control centres will be established in Europe to control satellite operations and manage the navigation system.
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