EU to launch homegrown satellite navigation system

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The European Union plans to go ahead with development of its own $2.4 billion to $3.2 billion global navigation satellite system (GNSS), partly out of concern about having to rely on the existing Pentagon-managed Global Positioning System.

Luc Tytgat, a staff member with the European Commission's Directorate of Transportation, described the U.S. GPS system as "a military solution and system," which "will not provide the level of service we need."

The European Union also believes that it can build a GPS-like system that provides greater accuracy than the U.S. system, developed by the Pentagon over the past decade at a cost of more than $10 billion, said Tytgat, speaking at the U.S. Coast Guard sponsored Civil GPS Service Interface Committee meeting here.

The European Union does plan to use the same signal structure and frequency bands as the U.S. GPS constellation, allowing existing GPS receivers and related technology to work with the new system.

And like the United States, the European Union plans to provide a basic level of service to all users worldwide at no cost. But, Tytgat added, users seeking greater accuracy and guarantees of availability will have to sign up for a higher level of service, which will be available on a "Pay TV-like basis."

The European Union plans to seek international partners, potentially including Australia, Canada and Japan in development of its "Galileo" satellite constellation, Tytgat said.

Tytgat did not rule out participation by the Russians, who developed their own GNSS at the height of the cold war. "We continue to talk to our Russian colleagues," Tytgat said. "We can learn a lot from the Russians about the technology."

Tytgat said the European Commission—the policy-making arm of the European Union—plans to finish an architecture definition phase for its GNSS this June, will make a financing decision by December 2000 and expects deployment of the 26 to 36 satellites in the Galileo constellation from 2005 to 2007. He said the European Union expects operation of Galileo to commence in 2008.

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