Members of the Transport, Telecommunication and Energy Council of the European Union have accepted a proposal by the European Commission to assume control of Galileo, the European satellite-based navigation program.
Galileo Avionica, the Italian division of Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems, is showcasing a new family of airborne sensors named “Gabbiano” (Italian for seagull). The modular airborne surveillance radars tap the combined expertise of the Finmeccanica group’s newly combined Italian and UK sensor businesses, which in the past have developed light maritime radars such as the RDR 1500 and the APS-717.
European taxpayers will shell out €2.4 billion ($3.25 billion) up front if a European Commission proposal that it assume control of the Galileo navigation program is approved. The executive body of the European Union announced its intentions after a consortium of eight private aerospace and telecom companies missed the May 10 deadline to appoint a CEO and submit plans to operate and maintain the system as a single company.
In a statement that surprised Western observers, China announced late last year that it will launch its own 35-satellite, GPS-like global navigation system over the next several years. Thirty of these satellites will fly in medium-earth orbits at around 12,000 miles altitude, similar to that of GPS, while the remaining five will be equally spaced around the equator in WAAS-like geostationary orbits and perform a similar service.
The biggest question remaining about Europe’s homegrown satellite navigation project appears to be not whether the satnav network will ever be built but rather who will run the multibillion-dollar Galileo system after the first of its 30 satellites are launched later this year.
China has disclosed that it intends to build a GPS-like global navigation system. Named Compass, the $2 billion system would have 30 satellites in medium earth orbits similar to the current GPS. Five additional satellites will provide WAAS-like and other functions, with a forecast 10-meter accuracy free to all users. Western experts predict likely operation between 2015 and 2020.
The air transport industry in Europe employs about 3.1 million people, and if air traffic doubles in 15 years as expected, the sector will contribute up to 13 percent of Europe’s gross domestic product. A thriving aerospace industry is therefore a key factor in the 25-nation European Union’s “Lisbon Strategy” to become the “most competitive economy in the world.”
While it may be hard to believe that the global positioning system (GPS) is already more than a quarter century old, it may be equally difficult to imagine that by 2020 there will be more than 100 navigation satellites crisscrossing in outer space, high above us. Yet the first is true and, barring unforeseen eventualities, the second will also be true.
For member companies of Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe (ASD) as a whole, 2005 was a remarkably good year, with revenues of €113 billion ($141 billion). Over the same period, employment also grew by 13,000 to reach 614,000, with the growth largely driven by the commercial aeronautics sector.
GPS Satellite SVN-15 will celebrate its 16th birthday in space this month, and by next spring it will have circled the earth 12,000 times (roughly twice a day), continuously transmitting navigation signals to us. That’s amazing performance, especially considering that its original orbital life was expected to be 7.5 years.