"Space can do a lot for European citizens. Our global satellite navigation system, Galileo, is now only a step away from taking wing", said Antonio Rodotà, Director General of the European Space Agency, welcoming the conclusions of the European Council meeting held on 15 and 16 March in Barcelona, and echoing the appreciation expressed by the ESA Council, the governing body of the Agency, gathered in Paris for its 156th meeting today and tomorrow.
The European Council met in Barcelona for its second annual Spring meeting to take stock of the economic, social and environmental situation in the Union. In the field of transport, the Heads of State or Government welcomed the progress on Galileo and asked the Transport Council, scheduled to meet on 25/26 March in Brussels, to take the necessary decisions regarding both the funding and launching of this programme, to be financed on a 50-50 basis with ESA.
The Galileo satellite navigation system was a major topic at ESA's ministerial Council meeting in Edinburgh last November, when the ministers in charge of space activities in Europe agreed funding for the development and in-orbit validation phase, subject to EU Transport Council approval of the programme.
Meeting on 7 December, the EU Transport Council had not managed to finalise the practical arrangements. However, the Heads of State or Government, at their summit later that month in Laeken, Belgium, reaffirmed the strategic importance they attached to the Galileo programme, welcomed the decision taken by the European Space Agency in Edinburgh, and invited the EU Transport Council to take a decision in March 2002. The European Parliament too has since given a favorable opinion on proceeding with the programme.
Meanwhile, an interim structure, GISS (Galileo Interim Support Structure), consisting of some 30 highly qualified international staff located in Brussels, has been put in place to ensure that the technical development of Galileo is consistent with users' requirements. Preparatory development activities have been intensified over the past few months with the European space industry, and also with the application and service industries.
Critical technologies, such as atomic clocks and signal generators, to be applied on board the 30 satellites of the Galileo system, are under development and work is progressing as planned. The Galileo ground segment architecture has been further refined with a view to minimising implementation and operations cost. Activities using the Galileo system test-bed will start soon.
Note to Editors:
Developed by ESA in cooperation with the European Union, Galileo will be Europe's own global satellite navigation system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It will be interoperable with GPS and GLONASS, the other two global satellite navigation systems. A user will be able to take a position with the same receiver from any of the satellites in any combination. By offering dual frequencies as standard, however, Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range, which is unprecedented for a publicly available system, and will inform users within seconds of a failure of any satellite. This will make it suitable for applications where safety is crucial, such as running trains, guiding cars and landing aircraft.
The fully deployed Galileo system will consist of 30 satellites (27 operational + 3 active spares), positioned in three circular medium-Earth orbit planes 23616 km above the Earth, inclined at 56 degrees to the equatorial plane. Galileo navigation signals will provide good coverage even at latitudes up to 75 degrees and beyond. The large number of satellites, together with optimisation of the constellation, and the availability of the three active spare satellites, will ensure that the loss of one satellite will have no discernible effect on service to users.
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