Azara Blog: First Galileo satellite launched into space

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Date published: 2005/12/28

The BBC says:

A new era in satellite navigation has begun with the launch of Giove-A.

The 600kg spacecraft was lofted into orbit on a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 1119 (0519GMT).

Giove-A will demonstrate key technologies needed for Galileo, the 3.4bn-euro (£2.3bn; $4bn) sat-nav system Europe hopes to deploy by 2010.

The new network will give EU states guaranteed access to a space-borne precise timing and location service independent of the United States.
Giove-A will check out the in-orbit performance of two atomic clocks - critical to any sat-nav system - and a number of other components that will be incorporated into the 30 satellites of the fully fledged Galileo constellation.

These spacecraft - four of which have already been ordered - are expected all to be in orbit by the end of 2010.

Giove-A also has the important job of securing the radio frequencies allocated to Galileo within the International Telecommunications Union.

To do this, a sat-nav signal of the correct structure must be received on Earth by June 2006. The SSTL team believes it can complete this task within the first couple of weeks of flight.

Galileo is a joint venture between the European Union and the European Space Agency (Esa).

Once fully deployed, the new system should revolutionise the way we use precise timing and location signals delivered from space.

"We are aiming to provide one-metre, worldwide accuracy through Galileo's 'open' service - this is not possible today without regional or local augmentation," said Esa's Galileo project manager, Javier Benedicto.

"With the use of three signals, we will have access to centimetre accuracies, and with these you will see many more services than you have today; and European industry is working to develop those applications."

Three cheers for the EU for at least doing one thing useful for Europe. Well, it's only early days but hopefully this will be the start of a successful project. Of course Galileo is a direct competitor to the US military GPS system (which the US allows to be used in a degraded form for civilian purposes). The US is no longer a trusted partner in the world, so it is definitely best that the EU have an independent, mainly civilian-driven project. The UK government wants to charge motorists for every mile they drive, and Galileo should allow such a system to be made practicable (or as practicable as it will ever get). This is one downside of Galileo, the governments of the EU will soon be able to track their citizens with ease (via their mobile phone or via their car). Hopefully the upside (e.g. better air traffic control and better traffic management) will outweigh the downside.

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