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Frequently asked questions - Galileo, the EU's satellite navigation programme

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op zaterdag 28 maart 2015.

See also IP/15/4717

Why is satellite navigation important to the EU?

Today, the positioning and timing signals provided by satellite navigation systems are /used in many critical areas of the economy, including effective road, sea and air traffic management, in-car navigation, electronic / trading as well as mobile phone networks and power grid synchronisation.

Satellite navigation applications are now numerous and varied and play key roles both in business and in the daily lives of citizens and communities. Independence in this area is important to the EU's economy: in 2011 it was estimated that already 6-7% of Europe's GDP, or €800 billion, relied on satellite navigation applications. European access to reliable and accurate satellite navigation services is therefore essential.

The satellite navigation sector also provides an enormous market, offering the potential to generate growth and create jobs in the EU. Like the internet, a global navigation satellite system is a service enabler rather than a standalone service. It acts as a catalyst for economic activities, leading to the creation of growth and jobs in a wide range of domains, such as space, receivers and applications. In 2013 the annual global market for navigation satellite products and services was valued at €175 billion. It is expected to grow over the next years to an estimated €237 billion in 2020.

What is GALILEO? What does it consist of?

Galileo is the programme of the European Union to develop a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) under civilian control. Galileo will allow users worldwide to know their exact position in time and space with great precision and reliability.

Once complete, the Galileo system will consist of an array of 30 satellites and the necessary ground infrastructure to control the satellites and enable the provision of positioning, navigation and timing services.


EGNOS, the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service, is Europe's first venture into satellite navigation. It is the EU's Satellite-Based Augmentation System, and is used to improve the accuracy of and provide information on the reliability of the GPS signal.

EGNOS has been fully operational since 2011. Its data can already be used in a wide range of areas. For example, EGNOS makes GPS suitable for safety-critical applications such as operating aircraft. Its Safety of Life Service provides the integrity needed for more precise landings, fewer delays and diversions and more efficient routes. In Europe, more than 170 EGNOS-based landing approaches are currently available at more than 110 airports in 15 countries, which includes the Fiumicino (Rome) and Orly (Paris) Airports.

Why don’t we just use existing global satellite navigation systems?

We have become very dependent on services provided by satellite navigation in our daily lives. A disruption in satellite navigation services can trigger major disruptions to energy distribution, business, banking, transport, aviation, communication, to name but a few areas in the event of a service shutdown would be critical (e.g. in terms of revenues for business, road safety, critical infrastructures, etc.).

As opposed to many other satellite navigation systems worldwide, Galileo will be under European civilian control and the system will be entirely owned by the EU.

We can and will continue to use existing systems as Galileo will be interoperable with GPS and compatible with other existing satellite navigation systems for some of its services. The larger number of navigation satellites will in particular improve the service availability in constrained environment (in cities for instance). Galileo will, however, provide more accurate satellite navigation positioning signals for Galileo enabled receivers.

Galileo will include new features such as a global Search and Rescue function, which will be the first in the world to integrate almost real-time localisation of distress calls. This will help to save lives and reduce rescue crews’ exposure to risk.

How will Europe benefit from the Galileo programme?

Once the system is fully deployed and operational, data provided by Galileo satellites could be used in a wide number of areas to improve quality of life and business across Europe, for example to helping navigate ships through narrow channels, enhance transport logistical operations, and improve the speed of emergency services' responses in critical situations.

The satellite-based service industry is of major importance for the EU economy as it turns the investment made in space infrastructures into concrete applications and services to benefit citizens. The Galileo programme presents a huge business opportunity, not just for companies delivering the satellites or ground segment but also for downstream industry, the people who work in the areas of receivers, platforms, and the development of innovative services. Galileo gives equipment manufacturers, application developers and providers of ‘reliability-critical' services the opportunity to create a range of new business opportunities.

What services will Galileo provide?

Once sufficient satellites are in orbit and operational, and the accompanying ground infrastructure is in place, the operational phase - in which companies can use the data from Galileo - can start in earnest.

Galileo will provide the following services:

  • Open Service - a freely accessible service for positioning, navigation and timing, utilising the dual-frequency Galileo Signal in Space. The Open Service will also support position integrity monitoring for users of safety-of-life applications.
  • Public Regulated Service - an encrypted, secure service with additional advanced features designed for greater robustness and higher availability, primarily directed at public sector operations.
  • Commercial Service - a fee based service which will deliver authentication and high accuracy services for commercial applications.
  • Search and Rescue Service - will assist in locating people, vessels and aircraft in distress.
  • Safety of Life - a contribution to services monitoring the integrity of the satellite signals, in compliance with international standards.

What are the different phases in the Galileo programme?

The deployment of the complete Galileo infrastructure is a process that will span over several years. So far, the initial experimental phase and the In-Orbit Validation (IOV) phase have been completed. The IOV phase validated the system design using a reduced constellation of four satellites - the minimum required to provide exact positioning and timing at the test locations - along with a limited number of ground stations. The Full Operational Capability (FOC) phase has started and it will involve the deployment of the remaining ground and space infrastructure.

When will the next launches take place? When will the system be completed?

The plan is to have the full constellation of 30 Galileo satellites (which includes six in-orbit active spares) in operation before the end of the decade.

In addition to the launch in March 2015, four more satellites will be ready for launch this year. From 2016 onwards, using three of the fully European-constructed ARIANE 5 launcher, representing an investment of €500 million, we will also be able to launch four rather than two satellites each time.

Where can companies find information on how to develop services using Galileo signals?

As Galileo will soon enter its operational phase, providers of services and products using data from Galileo must already start preparing for future market opportunities.

To support such companies, the Commission has created a European GNSS service centre, based in Madrid. The service centre acts as an interface between the Galileo system and user communities of the open and commercial services, to help ensure they can maintain the provision of any products or services they have constructed on the basis of the data flow from Galileo.

Who does what within the Galileo programme?

The European Commission has the overall responsibility for the Galileo and EGNOS programmes. It manages and oversees the implementation of all programme activities.

Galileo's deployment, the design and development of the new generation of systems and the technical development of infrastructure are entrusted to the European Space Agency.

The Commission has delegated the operational management of the programmes to an EU agency, the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), based in Prague.

Who pays for the EU's space programmes? How much will Galileo cost?

During the already completed definition and validation phases of the Galileo and EGNOS programmes, the EU and the ESA contributed. In 2008 it was decided that the programme will be fully financed from the EU budget.

From 2014 until 2020, the EU will spend €7 billion on satellite navigation. This amount is necessary to complete the Galileo ground and space infrastructure and to finance the operational phase of both Galileo and EGNOS programmes.

History of the Galileo programme

Europe started to take up challenges in satellite navigation when the European Space Agency initiated research and development programmes in that area, in partnership with the European Commission and the civil aviation community.

Discussions on a European system started in the late 1990s and, in 1999, the Council of the European Union called on the Commission to develop a global system managed by public civil authorities. After the failure of negotiations to create a public-private partnership, in 2008 the European Parliament and Council decided to complete Galileo with resources from the EU budget.

Since 2008 work has been ongoing in a number of areas, such as the construction of the satellites, the provision of launch services and operations and the creation of ground infrastructure. In 2011 the first two satellites were launched, followed by another two in 2012.

In 2014, two satellites of a new design and from a new manufacturer were launched from the European Space Port in Kourou. These satellites were intended to initiate the phase leading the full deployment of the constellation (Full Operational Capability - FOC phase) and to services.

An anomaly in the Fregat stage of the launcher caused the satellites to be delivered on a wrong orbit. An Independent Enquiry Board investigated the case and issued recommendations. Those were implemented by the different partners, leading to the resumption of the flights for Galileo in March 2015.


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