Dec 29, 2005

Europe launches own GPS system

The European Union has launched the first satellite in its mission to build a GPS (Global Positioning System) of its own, rivalling the existing system offered by the US Military. Named Galileo, the new system will offer more precise navigation with an accuracy of upto one yard, beating the US system which offers only a five yard precision. The system is slated to be operational by 2008.

Other than the technical improvements that it offers, Galileo will offer the European Union an independent navigational system of its own, and unlike the US system, it will be more open to civilian uses. The system was developed in co-operation with China, Israel and Ukraine, and more countries including India, South Korea, Norway and Argentina are expected to participate in the future.

The current GPS system is controlled by the United States, which had recently warned that it would cut off or deny access to countries considered enemies in times of national emergency. The EU said that Galileo will be available at all times except in the case of "direst emergency." What qualifies to be one is left to the imagination.

The launch of Galileo comes at a time when Russia is moving forward with a positioning system of its own known as GLONASS. They have already put three satellites into orbit, and their system is due to be operational by 2010.

Read more on the Galileo program.

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