The European Space Agency’s Galileo satellites recently achieved their first successful in-flight tracking of a test machine using aircraft-generated longitude, latitude and altitude. A pair of Galileo test receivers was used aboard the aircraft, the same kind currently employed for Galileo field-testing.
A recent New York Times article described a Russian request to the State Department to approve U.S. locations for one or more terrestrial signal monitors for Russia’s Glonass satellite navigation system, similar to America’s GPS, suggesting the request could have worrisome consequences.
According to the article, “The CIA and other American spy agencies, as well as the Pentagon, suspect that the monitor stations would give the Russians a foothold on American territory that would sharpen the accuracy of Moscow’s satellite-steered weapons.”
GPS Source, a manufacturer of indoor GPS receivers, released its GLI-Metro-G system, which provides a variety of GPS signal types and control over effective radiated power (ERP) levels. GLI-Metro-G can receive GPS L1/L2 and Glonass L1/L2 signals, and users can select both GPS and Glonass or each type individually. An antenna must be mounted on the outside of the building to pass the signals through to the receiver. GLI-Metro-G will also accept Galileo signals when that system becomes operative, as well as those from other future GPS-type systems.
After several years of anticipation, the planned earth-girdling network of five global navigation satellite system (GNSS) constellations is taking tangible form in space. Two of them–America’s GPS and Russia’s Glonass–are already fully operational. Glonass reached that goal in 2009, joining the pioneering GPS, which achieved that status in the 1980s.
It had always been ICAO’s intent that civil user services provided by the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) should be free of charges or user mandates, except for certain optional applications such as fee-bearing accuracy enhancements with performance guarantees. Europe’s Galileo is expected to offer such optional enhancements. But Russia has announced that it will mandate the carriage of receivers for its Glonass constellation in all aircraft on its civil aircraft register. GPS may also be used, but only when integrated with a Glonass receiver and its adjuncts.
Selex Galileo has announced a new sale for its Falco tactical unmanned air system, bringing the number of export customers to four. The company has also revealed that more than 50 air vehicles are in operation.
Three Finmeccanica companies have signed agreements with the Russian defense export agency Rosoboronexport to offer maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) versions of Russian types. Selex Galileo would provide its ATOS mission management system, while radio specialist Selex Elsag would provide advanced CNI (communications, navigation, identification) equipment.
So, first, who needs three more worldwide satnav systems, when we already have GPS? Why do these others want to spend billions just to keep up with the U.S.? There are two reasons: one political and the other practical. Politically, GPS has become a (not the) dominant technology in almost every part of human life around the world, in government, national security, industry and private life, with more than a billion receivers being used daily for thousands of applications, from simple to critical.
The basic precept of international GNSS is that public services will be available to all users without user charges or other fees. Separately, each system can transmit unique highly classified frequencies–such as the military codes used by the U.S.’s GPS, Russia’s Glonass, China’s Compass and the fee-paying civil applications for enhanced accuracy and integrity signals from Europe’s Galileo–but none affects public services.
Today, most of us would probably rate cellphones, ATMs and the Internet as the three most useful modern gadgets we use regularly. We likely wouldn’t rank GPS up there, and maybe not even in the top 10. Yet without GPS, those three wouldn’t work too well, if at all, and neither would a host of other things that we depend on (reliable electrical power; banking systems; national and worldwide telecommunications, including air traffic control; and car navigation, to name a few). And with NextGen slowly approaching, aviation’s dependence on GPS will grow exponentially.
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