Look up to the skies … Galileo satellites help us navigate below

Look up to the skies … Galileo satellites help us navigate below

Stuart Clark A complement to GPS, the European space service, free to the public, takes on new satellites launched in Guiana

Tomorrow, satellites of Europe’s Galileo navigational system are scheduled for launch into space atop a Russian-build Soyuz rocket, taking off from the spaceport in Guiana, South America.

These are the 9th and 10th such satellites – launching at 3.08am BST on Friday 11 September – and two more in the constellation are planed for launch by the end of the year. By 2020 the full system will consist of 26 functioning satellites, and six spares in orbit. The first navigational services will be offered to customers next year.

Galileo is designed to provide Europe with an independent navigation capability to break the continent’s dependency on the American GPS system. Although Galileo will function on its own, receivers will use signals from both systems, will significantly improving the reliability and accuracy of the service.

People using this navigation system in city centres often find contact with low-lying satellites is hampered by tall buildings. Devices which use both GPS and Galileo facilitate availability of more satellites, increasing the chances of finding several overhead and within range.

The Galileo programme this year released new analysis software to compensate for the distortion of navigational signals which takes place in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Applying these mathematical remedies will allow positional accuracy of up to a few centimetres with some services.

Galileo, which has been in development since the 1990s and is costed at £4.4bn, is to offer a free public service, and also encrypted signals for regulating critical transport and emergency services, law enforcement and border controls.

This article titled “Look up to the skies … Galileo satellites help us navigate below” was written by Stuart Clark, for The Guardian on Thursday 10th September 2015 20.29 UTC