The European Commission (EC) has proposed development of a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) independent from the US global positioning system (GPS) as the second stage in Europe's satellite navigation programme.

The Galileo project, announced by EC transport commissioner Neil Kinnock on 10 February, will require funding of up to 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion).

Following a year of deliberating its GNSS-2 options, the EC is proposing an open, global system that is fully compatible, but independent from GPS, with a significant role for Russia. Building on Russia's Glonass system would allow early deployment of a European-led GNSS-2. In addition, Russia has access to vital radio frequencies that are necessary for any new satellite navigation system.

The proposed system will comprise a medium earth orbit satellite network that will be developed as a public-private partnership with "significant" funding from the European Union's (EU) Trans-European Networks budget and R&D programme and the European Space Agency (ESA).

About 750 million euros of the required funding is expected to come from EU budgets, with ESA contributing some 500 million euros. "The investment needed - less than 3,000 million euros - is not unbearable since it would be spread between 15 member states over 10 years. The returns would be immense," says Kinnock.

A European satellite navigation system would avoid the problems caused by the continent's dependence on US and Russia satellite systems "-over which Europe has no control", says the EC. The existing military-based GPS and Glonass systems fall short of realising the full potential of satellite technology and are not backed by "-adequate service guarantees and a legal framework to support the full range of civilian uses", it says.

Over coming months, the EC will propose mandates to open negotiations with Russia and the USA. Co-operation with the USA is vital to ensure that the Galileo project is interoperable and compatible with GPS.

Source: Flight International