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.
Since it was disclosed late last month that President Bush has directed the Department of Defense to draw up plans for temporarily disabling the U.S. network of GPS satellites during a national crisis to prevent terrorists from using the technology, operators have been seeking more details and clarification of the policy. How U.S. policy would apply to Galileo, Europe’s planned GPS network, is unknown.
Senior U.S. and international government and industry officials told specialists attending two meetings recently that by 2020 as many as 100 satellites could be radiating GPS-compatible navigation signals to air, sea and land users, with the overwhelming proportion of users being on land.
The European Union (EU) has approved a joint bid from two groups that previously had competed against each other for the contract to run the $4 billion Galileo satellite navigation system.
On December 28, the European Space Agency launched the first test satellite of its future Galileo navigation system. Three days earlier, Russia launched three satellites to join the previous 14 in its Glonass navigation network. Meanwhile, U.S. Department of Defense officials expressed concern about whether GPS could remain competitive without major technology upgrades.
Inmarsat announced it has been selected to manage the company that will look after Galileo’s global network operations, including performance monitoring and operations security.
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