Julian Moxon/GENOA

The official planned entry into service of the European Galileo global navigation satellite system (GNSS) in 2008 has been described as "completely unrealistic" by senior programme sources. Doubts also persist over funding for operation of the interim Egnos system.

The European Commission (EC) launched the definition phase of Galileo in July, with a go-ahead decision set for December next year. This is being seen as over-optimistic, as the launch is beset with thorny issues, such as funding, military aspects, frequencies, interoperability with the US global positioning system and co-operation with Russia, which are thought likely to take longer to resolve. "I've absolutely no doubt that Galileo will not be in operation when the EC says it will," says a source.

Meanwhile, attempts to find ways of funding the operation of Egnos when it enters service in 2003/4 have yet to succeed. The issue is taking on further importance as it becomes clear that Egnos, which will provide precision navigation by augmenting the US global positioning system and its Russian equivalent, Glonass, will be expected to provide services for longer than expected while Galileo is developed.

Airlines have objected to being charged for using Egnos, claiming that they will form only a small component of a potentially vast user community, most of which will be ground-based.

National air traffic control service providers want to recoup their investment in Egnos, however, and are faced with the problem of having to continue providing existing ground-based navigation services during the transition to the satellite-based system.

One proposal, mooted at the GNSS '99 conference in Genoa this month, is that Egnos could be used as a test and evaluation system for Galileo, enabling the release of EC money to pay for its introduction while other, commercial, funding methods are being pursued. Egnos would "reinforce the robustness" of Galileo by providing a network of local augmentation systems.

To save money and prevent duplication, one idea is to combine operational test and evaluation of Egnos, which is being co-developed by the EC, European Space Agency (ESA) and Eurocontrol. The EC, responsible for non-aviation modes of transport, the ESA for overall technical performance and Eurocontrol for the aviation component, were each due to carry out their own tests separately.

The European Council of ministers has asked the EC to set up a Galileo steering committee and programme management board to "assist in all tasks of the definition phase", particularly security and finance questions.

Source: Flight International