With the handover of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) to the European Community on 1 April, a more accurate satellite location positioning is now publicly available on an “as is” basis.
The milestone was achieved when the European Commission took over ownership of EGNOS’ infrastructure on behalf of the Community from the European Space Agency. It paves the way for EGNOS to begin formal operations later this year.
EGNOS is the precursor of Galileo, the global navigation satellite system being developed by the European Union. EGNOS improves on the positioning accuracy of the US’ GPS satellite navigation signals down to about two metres from ten metres. In addition, EGNOS provides verification of the system’s integrity, a feature necessary to meet the demands of safety-critical applications in sectors such as aviation and maritime.
EGNOS to provide three services
The Commission will provide three EGNOS services: a free Open Service, the Safety-of-Life Service and the EGNOS Data Access System (EDAS).
The free-of-charge Open Service is already available to anyone with an EGNOS-enabled receiver, but comes without any guarantee of service. The Safety-of-Life Service is due to become operational in 2010, after EGNOS is certified as compliant with international satellite navigation standards.
The EDAS commercial data service was launched by the GSA in March 2009 as a free beta test bed for companies. The beta test lasts for 12 months. The ground-based service provides access to EGNOS’ raw location data via a link to a dedicated computer server.
Study underway to extend signal coverage
EGNOS was developed over the past 12 years through a trilateral agreement of ESA, the European Commission and Eurocontrol. About €600 million was invested to develop the system, which involved the participation of private-sector companies throughout Europe.
The system is made up of three geostationary navigation satellites, and a ground network of 40 positioning stations and four control centres. The signal coverage area includes most European states. The Commission is currently studying whether to extend the geographical coverage of the EGNOS signal to regions outside of the EU, including to neighbouring countries and North Africa.
The Commission has assigned the operational management and maintenance of EGNOS to ESSP, a company based in Toulouse, France and founded by seven air navigation service providers: Aena (Spain), DFS (Germany), DSNA (France), ENAV (Italy), NATS (UK), NAV Portugal and Skyguide (Switzerland).
The European Space Agency will maintain its role as EGNOS’ design and procurement agent through a delegation agreement with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Transport and Energy.
EGNOS paves the way for Galileo
“EGNOS is the first concrete example of the European Union's capacity to deliver in the area of satellite navigation,” said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, the Commissioner for Transport. “In the years to come it will help to pave the way for Galileo, Europe's own global navigation satellite system.”
When it becomes operational, Galileo will provide global autonomous navigation and positioning services through a network of 30 satellites and an associated ground infrastructure. Galileo will also be interoperable with GPS and Russia’s GLONASS satellite navigation system.