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EU Space Politics Technology

Galileo To Be Europe's Answer To US GPS 402

judgecorp writes "Two Galileo satellites that will signify the start of the European Union's answer to the American Global Positioning System will be launched into orbit on Thursday aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. It's using Soyuz because it is cheaper than the French Ariane — and the satellite system is supposed to free Europe from dependence on a U.S.-controlled positioning system."
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Galileo To Be Europe's Answer To US GPS

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  • .. more redundancy is always better. This is probably some of my tax money that has been spent the best. Aside for those used to repair the roads, teach the children, take care of the sick and so on and so forth.
    • >>.. more redundancy is always better. This is probably some of my tax money that has been spent the best

      GPS is great, sure, but IIRC Galileo isn't compatible without devices being modified to also accept Galileo signals. So this project is going to cost quite a bit of money in re-engineering and replacement costs for devices to use the new system in addition to GPS.

      I don't buy that the stated purpose for the system (independence from the US's military) is very credible, given that the US is, you know

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        GPS devices have a limited usable life anyways, at least the consumer devices. As the satellites are being shot into space and the system becomes operational new devices start to include also Galileo capability. The basic technology isn't that different from GPS, it isn't like going back to the 80's to develop the first GPS receivers again.

        Not all of EU is in NATO. And it wouldn't be impossible for some of the EU states to shoot down the GPS satellites either.

      • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @03:05AM (#37759364) Journal
        Before Galileo was decided, US did not give the ability to use the full precision of the GPS to non military US units. It also has the capacity to unilateraly switch off GPS on a zone. Galileo will be a civilian system, for anyone to use. Presumably always on.

        About redundancy, note that 2 other positioning systems are currently deployed :
        Chinese Beidou : https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Beidou_navigation_system [wikimedia.org]
        Russian GLONASS : https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/GLONASS [wikimedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Full precision has been in place for quite some time. I was one of the GPS operators (SSO) that basically began the process of this back in the mid-90s. This is total BS because the EU is going broke fast and they want to launch a billion dollar+ program (yes, Euro billion plus, whatever) for duplication? Not buying it. GLONASS is different because they don't pretend to be our friends. Their system declined due to funding, but now they have the money again. GLONASS birds launched in the 90s were garba

          • Its no secret that certain people in Europe (mostly politicians) want to be able to take unilateral military action. In the modern era, having your own GPS network is part of this.

          • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @06:07AM (#37760240)

            This is total BS because the EU is going broke fast and they want to launch a billion dollar+ program (yes, Euro billion plus, whatever) for duplication?

            No, they don't want to launch the programme. They launched the programme something like twenty years ago. They want to continue the programme, which is coming to fruition.

        • by JohnnyComeLately ( 725958 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @05:29AM (#37760008) Homepage Journal
          Wow there's a lot of misinformation floating on this relatively simple subject. First, Block I, II, IIA, IIF, and IIRs do not have the capability to switch off zones. GPS satellite antennas are also not electronically steerable, as say a Milstar EHF comm bird, so you can't "turn off a zone," electrically/RF wise (or to ignore jamming). The satellites are a semi-sync bird, which means 12 hour orbit time around the entire Earth. They're only over regions a short period, and so physically going up on every satellite to turn them on and then off would be insanity on the ops floor (2 SOPS, Shreiver AFB, CO) and unsustainable beyond a day or two. Simply stated, not practical or really necessary. Using $15 in parts from Radio Shack I can jam GPS for small areas, if I didn't mind potentially going to jail.

          For the comments, "We can shoot them down." Completely irresponsible. It's like saying, "If we want to destroy their bridge, we can just Nuke it." If you destroy a satellite, that position in space becomes unusable due to debris for centuries. We're not going to do it. This is why we were very angry with the Chinese for testing ASAT awhile back. Completely unnecessary and very irresponsible. We don't test GBU's on busy highways in the middle of urban cities (unless you include Iraq, but I kid).

          • by mattcasters ( 67972 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @06:10AM (#37760260) Homepage

            Fact remains that GPS is controlled by the US (military) and that restrictions are in place for civilian usage as far as accuracy, speed and altitude are concerned. I also still remember quite clearly that during the Iraq war all GPS receivers in Europe were off by about 100m at some point. I do not think that was an accident.

            As far as shooting down GPS satellites is concerned: according to Wikipedia that completely irresponsible comment was a threat made by US officials:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_(satellite_navigation)#Tension_with_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

          • by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @06:46AM (#37760432) Journal
            https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Selective_Availability#Selective_availability [wikimedia.org]

            GPS includes a (currently disabled) feature called Selective Availability (SA) that adds intentional, time varying errors of up to 100 meters (328 ft) to the publicly available navigation signals. This was intended to deny an enemy the use of civilian GPS receivers for precision weapon guidance.

            http://www.securityfocus.com/news/10140 [securityfocus.com]

            President Bush has ordered plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of global positioning satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the navigational technology, the White House said Wednesday.

            So from what I understand, the accuracy of GPS can be degraded for civilians whenever the US government wishes to do it, and GWB tried to make it possible to switch off the network whenever a terrorist attack hits U.S. You have to admit that this doesn't make non-US users of the system feel very secure. I guess that in case of a terrorist attack, the US would not be very concerned about an ongoing French military operation in Ivory Coast for instance, and would switch off or degrade the system without a second thought.

            • by JohnnyComeLately ( 725958 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @07:04AM (#37760556) Homepage Journal
              SA has been off since 1993-1994. I know because I was one of four SSOs who turned it off. 17 years have passed with no change. If we were turning it on, we would have at some point. It's not a trivial matter to turn it on and off. There are also international politics involved now which make this nearly moot. Yes, it was take not only more than a "second thought," it takes quite a bit of effort.

              As much as GWB is everyone's new devil pariah most-loathed person, he can't rewire satellites already in space. And before you quote me Wiki again, no the space shuttle can't go out to 11,000 miles to do an upgrade. It's A) No longer flying B) Not capable of going even close to that distance.

              Ignore every movie you've ever saw about space. We don't "flick stuff off and on" at a whim. We don't reposition satellites real time, at least not GPS, DSP, DMSP, or EHF (Milstar) birds. Spy satellites are even harder since they're in a highly elliptical orbit which is travelling at exceptionally high speeds when it's at perigee (the nearest point, which is usually where they're spying on). It's a matter of physics.

              We've had many terrorist attacks since SA was turned off: Khobar Towers, USS Cole, 9/11, etc. Still off and no degradation.

      • by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @03:20AM (#37759418)

        I don't buy that the stated purpose for the system (independence from the US's military) is very credible, given that the US is, you know, part of NATO and whatnot. And if the EU does turn hostile to the US in some sort of bizarro-world, the US possesses capabilities to shoot them down. So it doesn't make a lot of sense along those lines.

        Military alliances like NATO have their place, but I think a major part of this is not about being America's enemy, only about independence. Is it in Europe's interest to not feel they have to bow to America's political pressure? I should certainly think so. America is far to much in the pockets of big corporations, and as long as that is so, I think a politically weaker America is in everybody elses interest - and possibly in the American people's interest as well.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @04:27AM (#37759720) Homepage

          Here in Norway we're almost 5 million people and our largest military threat - despite it being post-Cold War is Russia, which is a huge country who could field more soldiers than we have people. If NATO won't help we're screwed anyway and if NATO comes people expect the cavalry to come charging to our rescue anyway. But is the US interested in protecting people that can't be bothered to have a decent defense of their own? If everybody is betting on NATO to aid them, who'll be the ones delivering all the aid? Would you seriously accept the logic on anything that "They have tanks, so we don't have to" "They have carriers, so we don't have to" "They have submarines, so we don't have to". No, Europe should have its Galileo because it's ours even though the US has theirs and we're allies. An alliance should come on top of your own defense, not instead of it.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Evtim ( 1022085 )

        ShakaUVM says: I don't buy that the stated purpose for the system (independence from the US's military) is very credible, given that the US is, you know, part of NATO and whatnot

        Well, you better buy it, because Galileo is an old project which so far was crippled solely due to politics. Already back in the days when http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madeleine_Albright [wikipedia.org] was secretary of state she was in Europe trying to stop the project using any pressure available. It was on the news.

        Now, let us through away the p

        • The US does not really hold this position, at least not for a while. Its holding on, but only just and not from a position of power. And most don't think for much longer. Not as the dominate player. May still be the bully in the school yard though. But that is not the same thing.
      • by mmcuh ( 1088773 )
        From the start Galileo was designed to be even more "GPS independent", for example it was going to use the same frequency band as GPS so that the US couldn't use ground-based interference signals to block it without also blocking their own GPS in the same region. But someone scared them out of that.
      • by 1s44c ( 552956 )

        I don't buy that the stated purpose for the system (independence from the US's military) is very credible, given that the US is, you know, part of NATO and whatnot. And if the EU does turn hostile to the US in some sort of bizarro-world, the US possesses capabilities to shoot them down. So it doesn't make a lot of sense along those lines.

        And all you think about is war. Isn't it quite possible that one day the US will realise they can charge for GPS access? Maybe Europe doesn't want to risk being charged a fortune for something they have learned to depend on.

    • by Plammox ( 717738 )
      From what I heard, this was the unfortunate (for EU) consequence of the US answering "go f*** yourselves" to the EU demand of US forking over the GPS system to UN-control. The empty threat of building our own now has to become a reality. Yay for more jobs in the EU private space sector, though.
      • Private space sector? Really?

        Because I could've *sworn* the clean room I saw a Galileo satellite being prepared in was owned by ESA...

        • by Plammox ( 717738 )
          This may be, but a global positioning system consists of much more than just the satellite. In the country I live in now, private companies are delivering the infrastructure (think: ground antennas and control systems) to ESA, so yes, a lot of larger and smaller subcontractors are involved.
          • It may at a push be private sector, but its certainly not normal, commercial private sector.

            Galileo is ultimately an ESA project, even if they contract out to the private sector. Hopefully, some of the revenue it generates will go into non-profit spaceflight.

        • by EdZ ( 755139 )
          GIOVE-A was built by SSTL. Lots of the components for the actual satellites are built by SSTL. ESA orders the project around, but private companies do the actual manufacturing and assembly.
        • Believe me, plenty of money is being directed into the private sector on this deal...

        • by Zoxed ( 676559 )

          FYI Galileo is an EU project, subcontracted out to ESA and private companies. (And most of the "real" work of ESA is sub contacted out.) (EU and ESA doing mainly funding, project management, co-ordinating etc.)

    • Actually GPS is by far not the only one. Russia currently overhauls its old Glonass System which should be up to par in a few years, and I assume China also is working on its own system.
      And I agree the more the better to have redundancy.

    • by RoLi ( 141856 )

      As an European, who will be very poor pretty soon [in-other-news.com], I can only see this as a remnant of a pre-crisis pissing contest.

      Just today the EU has blown up the Euro bailout-package from 400 to 2000 billion, which means that about 5000 Euros is taken via inflation from each EU-subject.

      Of course our "representatives" have only agreed to the 400 billion package, so the step from 400 to 2000 is just the beginning.

  • This is the first Soyuz launch from French Guiana.

    (And so this is the first launch of a possibly man-ratable launcher by ESA).

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, the Soyuz launch pad is 20km West of the Ariane launch pad, in Sinnamary.

      CNES' web site about the event: http://www.cnes.fr/web/CNES-fr/4108-soyouz-en-guyane.php

      Photo set: http://www.flickr.com/photos/esa_events/sets/72157627767903603/show/

  • Didn't the US push the EU to allow them to be able to downgrade the Galileo signal, effectively giving the US a Galileo veto?

    At least that's my memory from, I think, 2004.
    • No.

      The US asked for the Galileo civilian signal to be moved so it didn't overlap with the US military one. In the original scheme, they wouldn't have been able to block civilian Galileo devices in warzones without blocking their own military signal.

      The capabilities of Galileo are unaffected. The civilian accuracy is still better than US military accuracy, but now you wouldn't be able to use it anywhere the US military is fighting.

  • I read somewhere that Galileo is 10x more "accurate" than the U.S. GPS. Aside from what exactly does that mean (absolute positioning, relative positioning) does anyone know if this is true? I can think of a whole host of new applications or applications that could be made a lot cheaper/easier (like autonomous vehicles) if this is true.

    And if it is true, how do they achieve it? Better atomic clocks (in orbit presumably)? Better algorithms? Better knowledge of the satellites positions? Better receivers?

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