The first test satellite in Europe's Galileo navigation system was launched in December 2005, followed by a second one in 2008. When operational there will be 30 satellites circling nearly 24 000 km above the Earth. This will ensure that there are always at least four satellites above the horizon.
A small receiver will pick up signals from the Galileo satellites and from any nearby ground stations. It will then be able to calculate your exact position and speed anywhere in the world.
Galileo will not replace the existing systems. Instead it will work alongside them. However, unlike the American and Russian systems, Galileo will not be controlled by the military. This will ensure that it is always available to help people on the move to find their way. Galileo will have many uses:
- Improving traffic flow
- Providing information on the location of any car, lorry, ship or aircraft
- Helping travellers or explorers in remote places to find their way
- Making aircraft landings safer, particularly in fog or low cloud
- Helping search and rescue teams
- Guiding blind people
- Tracking cyclists in real-time
Users will always be able to receive the Galileo signal, unlike GPS, so it is a truly reliable system.
Last modified 18 October 2011