12/28/2005

European satellite launch challenges GPS

Filed under: — By Aviran Mordo @ 5:40 pm

The European Union launched its first Galileo navigation satellite on Wednesday, moving to challenge the United States’ Global Positioning System (GPS).

Russian space agency Roskosmos said the 600 kg (1,300 lb) satellite named Giove-A (Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element) went into its orbit 23,000 km (15,000 miles) from the earth after its launch on a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in the middle of Kazakhstan’s steppe.

“The launch of Giove is the proof that Europe can deliver ambitious projects to the benefit of its citizens and companies,” said EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot in a statement.

The 3.6 billion-euro ($4.27-billion) Galileo programme, due to go into service in 2008 and eventually deploy 30 satellites, may end Europe’s reliance on the GPS and offer a commercial alternative to the GPS system run by the U.S. military.

“Radio-navigation based on Galileo will be a feature of everyday life, helping to avoid traffic jams and tracking dangerous cargos,” Barrot said.

The GPS is currently the only worldwide system offering services ranging from driver assistance to search-and-rescue help. Critics say its services for civilians offer less precision than those for military or intelligence purposes.

Galileo’s accuracy in positioning is to be one meter (3 feet) or less, while the GPS’s precision is more than 5 metres.

EU officials also say Galileo would never be switched off for strategic reasons, which might be the case with the GPS.

Source: Reuters

 

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