The European GNSS Evolution Programme (EGEP) is an ESA optional programme supported by 17 Member States and Canada. Its primary aim is to undertake research and development in and verification of technologies relating to regional space-based augmentation systems (SBAS) and global navigation satellite systems (GNSS).
What is it?
These objectives were defined with a view to expanding GNSS-related scientific, technical and industrial expertise in Europe, bringing it on a par with international levels.
Through forward-looking activities, the programme ensures that European industry has timely availability of competitive and innovative capabilities required for the evolution of EGNOS and Galileo. This applies to future requirements in the short, medium and long term.
EGEP also provides a framework for scientific research enabled by GNSS, which spans a wide range of disciplines, from atmosphere and climate modelling through time and space references to fundamental physics.
These aspects of the programme include initiatives to foster scientific utilisation of EGNOS and Galileo and to support education activities in the field of GNSS.
What was the impetus for starting the programme?
Participating States recognised Europe's need to maintain the technological momentum gained through the definition and development of EGNOS and Galileo. They considered that a European GNSS Evolution Programme would not only provide a framework for that, but also fit in very well with the European Space Policy and ESA's specific role in the European GNSS programmes, and at the same time address emerging challenges to these systems.
Technological obsolescence has to be counteracted by a suitable research and development programme that can also establish the technological readiness required for future upgrades of the systems. These can then match evolving trends towards more demanding user services and ensure that Europe acquired strategically important technology independence.
Another consideration is the international scene for GNSS, in which significant initiatives aimed at modernisation, completion and deployment of other global or regional GNSS systems can be observed – thereby challenging the competitiveness and interoperability of EGNOS and Galileo.
The large number of Participating States can be taken as evidence of genuine common understanding of the need for the programmatic framework and activities of EGEP.
How is EGEP being implemented?
The programme is being implemented through activities anchored in Work Plans that are being successively defined by the Agency and approved by the Participating States according to the following objectives:
- begin defining future system architectures for EGNOS and Galileo and prepare the technology for future versions of these systems
- support the definition of how to implement the next version of EGNOS, and prepare the technology for it
- provide testbeds and system tools
- improve Agency knowledge of GNSS performance monitoring and the principal environmental factors influencing performance
- promote and support scientific exploitation of EGNOS and Galileo
The approved Work Plans address these objectives through activities grouped in the following categories:
- system-level activities:
- identifying new capabilities for evolutions of EGNOS and Galileo
- defining possible EGNOS upgrades to augment GPS/Galileo dual frequency
- investigating new GNSS techniques for providing integrity
- improving performance of orbit determination & tracking systems (OD&TS)
- improving system autonomy and robustness
- space segment activities:
- improving space segment autonomy
- identifying critical technologies for implementation of inter-satellite links (ISL)
- preparing technology for future EGNOS payloads
- diversifying applied technology for clocks, improving their performance and availability and reducing requirements for their accommodation
- improving payload flexibility in terms of signal, coverage and accommodation of new missions
- improving payload reliability and transmitted signal fidelity and power levels
- ground segment activities:
- developing techniques for monitoring and mitigating local effects
- improving ranging measurement quality
- developing European technology for improving precision of clocks
- incorporating multi-constellation monitoring capabilities
- verification and validation activities:
- testing and qualification of EGNOS upgrades
- experimenting and demonstrating multi-region and multi-constellation systems (MRS)
- upgrading simulation capabilities to include results of system exploratory studies
- upgrading laboratory tools to support RF compatibility analyses
- identifying and defining in-orbit missions in support of system and technology development and qualification activities
- GNSS environment characterisation and science and education activities:
- improving knowledge of the RF interference environment, radiation effects in medium Earth orbits (MEOs) and ionosphere propagation models in extreme conditions (e.g. solar maximum)
- fostering scientific utilisation of EGNOS and Galileo, e.g. by providing enabling technology for future GNSS Reflectometry missions
- supporting education on GNSS through outreach activities and support to PhD studies
Testbeds will be implemented to allow validation of technical concepts and their related performance, to consolidate design specifications and evaluate technical risks with envisaged solutions for system upgrades.
At present, four testbeds have been defined for these purposes. They will provide operational support to experimentation and demonstration campaigns addressing the following aspects:
- future high integrity regional augmentation (the High Integrity System Testbed)
- regional GNSS augmentation services in the High North (the Arctic Testbed)
- high-precision positioning services (the High-Precision Service Testbed)
- liability critical regional GNSS services (the MRS Land Users Testbed)
As a spin-off, these testbeds will also provide support for the scientific aspects of the programme. How does the programme interact with the scientific community?
ESA has established a GNSS Scientific Advisory Committee (GSAC) with leading scientists in the field to foster interaction with the scientific community and to support the Agency in setting priorities and selecting proposals for the scientific exploitation of Galileo and EGNOS. The committee also recommends improvements to Galileo and EGNOS for scientific applications and advises on potential secondary payloads for Galileo satellites.
What benefits does EGEP deliver?
The programme serves to maintain technical European know how, competencies and infrastructures on a par with competing systems internationally. It also sustains the competitiveness and innovation capabilities of European industry and embraces scientific and educational aspects related to exploitation of regional and global GNSS systems.
In this way the programme represents an investment in the future of EGNOS and Galileo, by enabling technical readiness for upgrades and system evolution caused by mission evolution and technology obsolescence.
Where this readiness is important for European industry and research institutions, it is also important for the ESA in its role with the European Commission as design agent for the evolution of the European GNSS infrastructure.
How to be involved
EGEP follows the Agency’s rules for industrial involvement in that Invitations to Tender (ITTs) are issued throughout the year through ESA's EMITS website, which is open to all firms located in participating Member States.