Paris, 18 June 1998

Go-ahead for a European global navigation satellite system

The European Space Agency (ESA), the European Community (EC) and the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) have taken an important step towards the development of GNSS, the global navigation satellite system for Europe.

Meeting at the premises of the Council of the European Union in Luxembourg on 18 June, the Director General of ESA, Antonio Rodot(, the President-in-office of the Council of the European Union, Gavin Strang, Minister of Transport of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Director General of EUROCONTROL, Yves Lambert, signed an agreement formalising co-operation between the three organistions in the field of satellite navigation systems and services, with the aim of establishing a satellite navigation and positioning service for Europe as a contribution to a global effort.

The development of GNSS will be carried out in two main stages. GNSS-1 will be the first-generation system, based on signals received from the existing American GPS and Russian GLONASS constellations and civil augmentation systems using space based, ground based and mobile autonomous based techniques. The European space based augmentation system is known as EGNOS (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service), a set of navigation payloads on-board geostationary satellites, continuously monitored by ground stations both within and outside Europe. The system, to be completed by 2002, will be developed by ESA. GNSS-2, the second-generation system, will provide services to civil users and will be under civil operation and control by 2010. A decision on how to proceed with GNSS-2 will be taken within Europe by mid-1999.

Aircraft operators represent one of the main markets for satellite navigation systems, which have the potential to transform air traffic management in many areas. With the services provided by satellites, it will be possible to improve not only navigation accuracy but also enhance communication and surveillance capabilities, thus increasing safety, gaining time and reducing fuel consumption and costs.

But not only airlines will benefit from navigation satellite systems. Companies operating transport services by road, sea or rail need to know where their vehicles are at all times. So do police, ambulance and taxi services. Some European car manufactures are already featuring satellite navigation systems in their top-of-the-range vehicles and cheap hand-held receivers are becoming widely used by recreational sailors, climbers and hikers.

As well as improving safety, a European contribution to a global navigation satellite system will greatly contribute to improve economic prosperity, industrial returns, employment and quality of life in Europe.

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