Europe’s link between space technology and user needs
Europe is unique in that it is the only region developing a civil-based Global Navigation Satellite Services (GNSS) initiative. Whereas the United States’ GPS, Russia’s GLONASS, and China’s Beidou systems – among others – are all operated by their respective militaries, Europe’s Galileo programme stands alone as the world’s only GNSS under civil control.
Regardless of who operates the system, this space technology must ultimately benefit the users here on Earth. In Europe, the GSA serves as the essential link between space technology and user needs, translating Galileo and EGNOS signals into valuable, reliable services for European citizens.
The GSA has been delegated the responsibility for the Galileo service operations and initial services by the European Commission. Within this role, the Agency is tasked with ensuring that the end user remains at the centre of Galileo. To accomplish this, the GSA is in constant dialogue with user communities, industry and stakeholders via a wide range of activities. For example, the GSA is working closely with chipset and receiver manufacturers to ensure all products are Galileo-capable and ready for Galileo’s deployment. In addition to receiver manufacturers, the Agency is also working with the major user communities, such as maritime and rail stakeholders, so they can update their systems and be ready to use Galileo. In addition, R&D funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Fundamental Elements are important tools for reaching this level of readiness.
Overseeing the Galileo service provision is no simple task. Other systems are already operational, with GPS being the de facto standard. However, the GSA is committed to making Galileo the world’s second GNSS reference system by 2020. To accomplish this, the Agency will lean heavily on its strong track record and experience from its work with EGNOS, where it has been responsible for the programme’s service provision for the past two years.
During this time, the GSA has supported the uptake of EGNOS to benefit a wide range of users. For example, today, over 200 airports have EGNOS-based approaches, EGNOS-based precision farming benefits over two-thirds of European tractors, and EGNOS is the standard for mapping and surveying in Europe.
The European Union has invested heavily in the development of Galileo and EGNOS. With EGNOS growing and Galileo initial services expected to launch already this year, clearly now is the time to solidify the vital link between space technology and the end user – the European citizen.