Following years of wrangling and uncertainty, the European equivalent to the GPS (Global Positioning System), is finally beginning to take shape. The European Galileo system, which will complement the current USA system, is a step closer to completion.
Galileo, which will be the first operational global navigational satellite system (GNSS) outside the United States will provide positioning information for satellite navigation machines and timing information for GPS NTP servers (Network Time Protocol).
The system, being designed and manufactured by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the European Union (EU) and when it is operational it is expected to improve the availability and accuracy of timing and navigation signals transmitted from space.
They system has been dogged in political wrangling and uncertainty since its inception nearly a decade ago. Objections from the US that they will lose the ability top switch off GPS in times of military need; and economic restraints across Europe, meant that the project was nearly shelved several times.
However, the first four satellites are being finalised in a laboratory in southern England. These In-Orbit Validation (IOV) satellites will form a mini-constellation in the sky and prove the Galileo concept by transmitting the first signals so the European system can become a reality.
The rest of the satellite network should follow shortly after and. Galileo should eventually comprise over 30 of them which means that users of satellite navigation systems of GPS NTP time servers should get quicker fixes be able to locate their positions with an error of one metre compared with the current GPS-only error of five.