A new US policy on space-based navigation has strengthened the voice of the civil sector in deciding future improvements to the military-owned and -operated global positioning system. The policy will ensure GPS civil services "meet or exceed" the capabilities of other systems, including Europe's Galileo, says Jeff Shane, Department of Transportation deputy undersecretary for policy.

"The challenge Galileo poses we take very seriously," says Shane. The new policy is intended to maintain US leadership in space-based positioning, navigation and timing, he says, adding: "It is a good thing the European Union has done in challenging us."

Replacing a 1996 presidential directive, the national policy establishes a new executive committee co-chaired by the deputy secretaries of the Departments of Defense and Transportation. The previous lower-level interagency executive board "did not deliver the balance anticipated", says Shane. The new policy gives the DoT "a more effective voice" in decisions on GPS modernisation, he says.

In return, the DoT for the first time will be required to provide funding for civil-related enhancements to GPS that go beyond those already planned. The two "most conspicuous" issues the DoT wants to address are establishing an integrity monitoring capability for the civil signal equivalent to what the military has, and ensuring "we are providing a GPS service that is every bit as robust as that of alternative providers".

Russia and the USA, meanwhile, have agreed to work to maintain compatibility between their respective Glonass and GPS satellite navigation systems. This follows a hard-won agreement earlier this year to establish a common civil signal for GPS and Galileo.

"Both sides will work together to the maximum extent practicable to maintain radio-frequency compatibility in spectrum use between each other's satellite-based navigation and timing signals," said the US Department of State following a meeting of US and Russian delegations in Washington DC on 9-10 December.

Agreement between the USA and EU on compatibility of GPS and Galileo was only reached after prolonged and contentious negotiations. The final deal ensures that Galileo will not interfere with military GPS signals.


Source: Flight International