Print 21 comment(s) - last by Oregonian2.. on May 11 at 2:19 PM

Galileo's lone satellite, GIOVE-A, was launched in December of 2005.
The European Union may be forced to take the helm of the multinational Galileo satellite network, which is in serious danger of default

The $4.9 billion Galileo system was designed to challenge GPS, the U.S.-operated Global Positioning System. However, the project has been plagued by delays, software glitches, and bickering among its eight commercial sponsors. The result is a "serious and profound crisis” that threatens to derail the multinational effort, according to EU spokesman Wolfgang Tiefensee, who serves as Germany's transport minister.

The most serious problem appears to be funding. With the consortium's French, German, Spanish and British partners unable to agree on Galileo's operational structure and future direction, the EU is now considering alternatives for underwriting the massive project. Tiefensee told the Associated Press that the EU is seeking to create a "public-private partnership" to share the cost of completing the planned 30-satellite system.

To date, only one satellite has been launched. A second satellite suffered technical problems during testing, forcing postponement of its launch last fall. Plans originally called for the navigation system — billed as the first civilian-owned and operated global navigation network — to be operational next year, however the latest projections suggest that Galileo won't be ready for commercial use until 2012.

While Galileo's terrestrial sponsors continue to squabble over everything from launch timetables to the location of control rooms and other support facilities here on Earth, public support and commercial prospects for the project seem to be ebbing. Along with mounting financial and political obstacles, competition is increasing. China and Russia are actively launching their own constellations of navigation satellites to compete with the established GPS system.

The European Space Agency tried to soften the impact of European Commission criticism of Galileo this week by announcing that the systems lone satellite, GIOVE-A, successfully transmitted a navigation signal during a May 2 test. The ESA press release emphasized that GIOVE-A's signal is interoperable with the U.S. GPS system.

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At this point...
By daftrok on 5/10/2007 2:19:13 AM , Rating: 2
I wonder if they will just scrub this project. I mean, if they are allowing interoperability between GPS and Galileo, why even make this? How much profit is actually existent by going on with this project?

RE: At this point...
By feelingshorter on 5/10/2007 2:41:28 AM , Rating: 2
GPS is free for civilian use as far as I'm concerned, so I highly doubt they would make a profit selling Galileo as a monthly service.

I only see it as a military need. Seeing as how useful GPS is for the military, I would think that having more than one system in orbit being a very good idea. Claims have been made that Galileo will be better than our current GPS system but even GPS is being updated also.

Aside from Russia and China, India is also worth mentioning as a world power that already approved plans for their own IRNSS.

RE: At this point...
By cheetah2k on 5/10/2007 2:46:51 AM , Rating: 2
GPS is not exactly free. There are royalties paid on every GPS device that uses the GPS service, and wears the GPS badge.

How else would they keep it in the sky?

RE: At this point...
By ninjit on 5/10/2007 3:04:31 AM , Rating: 4
No even close buddy.

There are no royalties paid on GPS devices for using the term GPS or the service.

The constellation of satellites is maintained by the US airforce as a national asset for both consumer and military applications.

The military benefits alone are enough justification for the US government to keep paying for the operation, but they realized pretty quickly the civilian benefits as well, especially for maritime and air navigation, where it has improved safety tremendously.

RE: At this point...
By feelingshorter on 5/10/2007 3:06:26 AM , Rating: 2
Profit implies that they make money. Can you prove they are making money from the royalties alone? They keep it in the sky because the US government wants it so, for obvious reasons. I would think the US government pays a quite a lot to maintain the system and upgrade it. The royalties probably just offset a percentage of the cost of the whole system.

RE: At this point...
By stromgald on 5/10/2007 11:26:25 AM , Rating: 2
There are no royalties. The US government treats the commercial/civil band of the GPS system just like the interstate highways. It's paid by tax dollars as a general service to the populace.

RE: At this point...
By rqle on 5/10/2007 5:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
it's free. USA actually spend close to a billion ($750mil) yearly for maintenance and R&D. Its military uses a different wavelength spectrum of its GPS then what is a given to the world.

RE: At this point...
By peternelson on 5/10/2007 7:01:51 AM , Rating: 2
True the military get better precision than civilians uses.

However, not everyone is unprepared to pay for navigation systems.

Applications like construction surveying can benefit from higher precision and such services are often chargeable.

One way this is done is so-called differential GPS where signals from a base station at a fixed location are transmitted by radio to process along with the local mobile gps taking readings. Such processing gives much more precise location data. If a european system could offer similar or better, then there is a small market willing to pay for that.

However, I object to my taxes being spent on a "me-too" rival system which may never work. I believed it was NOT compatible with GPS because of using different frequencies.

The British people surveyed are about 90% against so-called "road pricing" ie track and charge car journeys, and any attempt to introduce such a scheme would be opposed.

An argument for doing it is diversity, but if China and Russia are also building them, then 3 navigation networks is quite sufficient to give choice and reliability.

I don't think there is a good business case, and if they want to fund space research they could just fund other ESA projects like another try at Mars.

RE: At this point...
By FastLaneTX on 5/10/2007 4:30:17 PM , Rating: 2
You're missing the fact that DGPS, WAAS, and LAAS extensions are all free to use as well. If Europe wants better GPS accuracy, all they need to do is participate in those programs and pay for the necessary ground stations.

The only reason Russia and China have for putting up their own constellations is in case we disable the civilian GPS signal because we're at war with them. Europe, particularly NATO countries, don't have that excuse.

RE: At this point...
By James Holden on 5/10/2007 5:48:16 AM , Rating: 4
GPS is not exactly free. There are royalties paid on every GPS device that uses the GPS service, and wears the GPS badge.

That's why Galileo will fail. It's not free, nor ubiquitous. And the 3m resolution is "good enough" for 99.9% of applications that use GPS.

This is Iridium all over again.

RE: At this point...
By mrteddyears on 5/10/2007 5:00:30 AM , Rating: 3
The UK government have funded this project to the tune of 2 billon UK pounds of tax payer’s money for the purpose of tracking cars to tax them for road usage. I hope the dam thing crashes into the house of parliament.

Some idiot the other day from the local council wanted to put tracking devices (based on Galileo) on dustbins so they can track people who put their bins in the streets to fine them.

typical EU
By otispunkmeyer on 5/10/2007 3:41:04 AM , Rating: 5
theres a bunch of busy bodies in the EU wanting us all to be one big happy european family.... but in reality, as countries we are that different, with different values and customs that its forever going to impossible to see eye to eye.

i mean you put dutch, german, french, british, spanish, italian and swiss engineers in a room, give them a problem to solve and i bet they wont agree on much at all.

they'll all have different views, methods and traditions that simply wont gel.

we should really just be all doing our own thing imo, looking after our own countries... not having a bunch of medelling idiots in brussels trying to dictate our lives.

RE: typical EU
By theapparition on 5/10/2007 8:58:43 AM , Rating: 5
Does anyone know what a camel's a horse designed by a committee ;-)

You have a completely valid point. When too many people (country's in this case) have equal say in a project, usually it ends in a mis-managed failure.
If the EU is to thrive, it needs a centralized government. To do this, each country would then lose it's identity, which is something the people are not willing to give up.

RE: typical EU
By bubbacub616 on 5/10/2007 3:05:35 PM , Rating: 2
People don't give the EU the credit its due - 60 years ago we are at each others throat in all out total war. The backdrop to this was 2000 years of near constant warfare. The creation of the EU has caused a monumental shift in relations between the countries of Europe. Now i'm happy to waste some money on bureaucracy and to put up with a few silly, well meaning (but dumb nevertheless) rules/projects if we are able prevent the continent from going back to pre- WWII conditions.

With regard to further European integration - I'm sure it will happen in time already inter country hatred and bigotry has been massively reduced (as an example look at the wonderfully amicable behaviour of European football supporters at the world cup in Germany last year - this would have been unthinkable even 30 years ago). It might take 50 years but it will probably work out - after all the USA has managed to assimilate large numbers of people from pretty much all the countries of Europe!

On topic - there is no harm in having a bit of redundancy in the satellite mapping systems - what if the USA decide to turn GPS off to non military people - it is afterall something they can do on a whim.

RE: typical EU
By Oregonian2 on 5/11/2007 2:19:57 PM , Rating: 1
what if the USA decide to turn GPS off to non military people - it is afterall something they can do on a whim

ROTFL - thanks! If GPS were turned off to civilians, our congressmen and president would be tossed out in an instant. GPS is uses massively by the population to the point that we nearly get free gps units in breakfast cereal boxes. GPS is used for the telecom industry as a stratum 1 timebase to keep our networks in sync and reducing data buffer over/under flows.

RE: typical EU
By jtesoro on 5/10/2007 12:10:03 PM , Rating: 3
I think the bigger problem than having engineers from different countries in a room is having each country's politicians in a room. The techies will be discussing how best to engineer the solution, and the varied cultures may actually be a good thing there. However, the politicians will be haggling over BS like where manufacturing will be done, whether one country will get a certain amount of jobs vs another country and other stuff which have nothing to do with the real problem being addressed.

The result will be some Frankenstein of a beast which will be inefficient to build and operate. The Airbus is a pretty good example, and I think it's lucky that it isn't having larger issues than it's got already.

How do civilians launch satellites?
By Storkme on 5/10/2007 4:07:24 AM , Rating: 2
Out of interest, how do civilians launch satellites? I mean, do you need to get permission from someone? Surely just launching something would mean it could eventually hit another satellite that's already up there, so there must be some form of coordination between countries and private firms that have satellites.

RE: How do civilians launch satellites?
By peternelson on 5/10/2007 6:49:01 AM , Rating: 5
You can launch your own satellite, but since you are unlikely to have the expertise in rocket propulsion systems to exceed airplane altitudes let alone space.

If you are doing that you need to tell your plans for launch time and obtain permission for launch in case either (a) you hit a plane or (b) someone thinks you are firing a missile and shoots at you. However for least fuel, you should launch at the equator somewhere not your backyard.

More practical is to pay someone else to launch it for you.

There is ample capacity on regular launches to "piggy back" your own satellite on another launch assuming it is small.

Such are called "picosatellites" or similar names.

You can build to standard sizes eg I think one is 10cm x 10cm x 30cm long. That fits inside a modular pico-sat launcher.

For fuel saving reasons you also have to keep the weight down eg to 1Kg.

You give your satellite to the company that will launch it and charge you maybe 10-50K pounds (20-100 USD).

A diy launch would need money spent on rocket fuel and other work, so that is actually quite good value.

Once in orbit, you can communicate with your satellite using radio for telemetry etc. You will need to check what frequencies are permitted in different geographic areas, and power levels. Any remote control should be encrypted for obvious reasons.

I think these are typically low earth orbit launches rather than geostationary orbit ones, and without onboard fuel, it's life in orbit would be limited, and it might drift to earth like Skylab and burn up in the atmosphere. You may of course use solar cells to power onboard electronics. Obvious sensors might include a CCD camera so you can take weather pics, but you won't have the optics to scrutinise cars etc from space.

Such picosats have been sucessfully built by universities and some schools are moderately low budget projects.

So with maybe £100K you could build and have launched a little satellite all of your own. In addition to manufacture you also need to test it can operate at cold temperatures or include some heating element to compensate. Also you may want to have redundant control systems or shielding from xrays etc.

Military satellites are monitored 24x7 and are "steered" using orbital thrusters to maintain position, direction, and to avoid any known "space junk". One of my friends does that from a command centre.

If you just want to run a satellite tv channel, or internet over sat, you can rent the transponder space (or a certain datarate in the multiplex) from a large number of commercial providers.

To build a competitive system to GPS you would need to license the spectrum (the single galileo sat needed to be launched to actually start using the frequency or they would have lost rights to it). Unfortunately to make a GPS-like system capable of reception with small receivers needs much greater transmission power and bigger satellites, so you need many million or billions to deploy constellation of larger sats on that scale and can't make a DIY GPS net.

However, I can think of several applications for which a constellation of picosats would be ideal.

See this link

By peternelson on 5/10/2007 7:20:41 AM , Rating: 3
I was thinking of Cubesat

10cm x 10cm x 10cm = 1 litre volume.

<= 1Kg mass.

Launch $65-80K (2004 estimate)

Some have experimental ion propulsion systems.

I think these are launched using the 30 x 10 x 10 launch module I described.

Details of many cubesat projects are linked from the wiki page for further reading.

Let's make our own GPS
By MADAOO7 on 5/10/2007 12:27:25 PM , Rating: 2
Anybody want to throw down for our own DailyTech GPS satellite? I have a lot of those Estes Rockets lying around. Figure I'd have to retrofit this bad boy with some Z Class Rockets to do it:

Com'om fellow Boy Scouts, I know you want to!

Just another AIRBUS?
By montgom on 5/10/2007 1:33:17 PM , Rating: 2
Just another success, like AIRBUS??? ;-)

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton
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