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Munich Welcomes the GNSS World

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 8th April 2014 - 08:00

After a one-year break, the Munich Satellite Summit was back in March, bringing together the major players in the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) sector

Updates on current system status and discussions on future developments were on the agenda of the event (25-27 March). In particular, this year saw a focus on the European Galileo and EGNOS systems.

The theme of this year’s Summit was integration of systems and of user applications as methods for enhancing benefits. Understanding the potential of an integrated system of the Galileo, EGNOS and Copernicus programmes, the European Commission has made a major commitment in terms both financial and political leadership. According to Matthias Petschke, Director of EU Satellite Navigation Programmes at the European Commission, although the Commission is providing the resources. “Infrastructure alone does not automatically generate services,” he said. “Thus, the focus must be on services.”

He noted that there is a clear challenge to transform space infrastructure into service platforms, and that the first integrated applications coming through will provide benefits to users and society. “For example, the arrival of Galileo Early Services will boost this transition to services,” he said.

Speaking of Galileo, the ESA’s Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain noted that Galileo was already a success and that early testing indicated the performance was twice that specified. “However, there are still 22 satellites to launch, so this is not the end, but a real good start,” he said.

Yet even as Galileo continues to be built up, there is still a powerful solution available. “EGNOS services are working well today and supporting a wide range of sectors”, said Carlo des Dorides, Executive Director of the GSA. “The GSA is already heavily engaged in Horizon 2020 projects and these are very powerful instruments for developing integrated applications and services – with a budget of €150 million available for proposals.”

He reminded participants of Galileo’s unique civil nature compared to all other GNSS, noting that the user is at the centre of system’s evolution as it moved from a technology push to a demand pull in the market.

Constellation Updates

Providing an update on the US GPS system, Colonel Harold Martin estimated there could be 10 billion GPS receivers in use by 2020. He stated the US government’s priorities are to provide free continuous worldwide access for peaceful use and to invest in domestic capabilities to mitigate interference. The US is also looking to ensure compatibility and achieve interoperability of GNSS while ensuring a level playing field in global marketplace. There are now 37 GPS satellites in orbit, of which 30 are operational and 12 are transmitting two or more civil signals.

“Accuracy is increasing all the time and is always better than specification,” he claimed. “A return on investment analysis is currently underway, but according to a rough estimate the costs are in the tens of billions of dollars per annum, while annual returns are of the order of $60-100 billion per year.”

The status of Galileo was presented by Christoph Kautz of the European Commission. Following the first fix for Galileo on 12 March 2013, further satellites had been launched. Additional launches are planned during 2014 that should allow for the declaration of Galileo Early Services (including the Open Service, Search and Rescue and the Public Regulated Service) by end 2014, early 2015.

Seven billion euro has been allocated for the programme for 2014-2020. OHB has the contract to build 22 Galileo satellites. The ground infrastructure is nearly complete, including the Galileo Security Monitoring Centres located near Paris and in Swanwick (UK). The launch of the Commercial Service is planned by 2016, and a long-term evolution plan is being developed this year. “2013 was pivotal for Galileo and 2014 will also be challenging,” said Kautz.

On the Chinese side, BeiDou (Compass) currently has 14 satellites in orbit: five geostationary, four medium Earth orbit and five in inclined geosynchronous orbit – all providing dual frequency services. In total, 30 satellites are planned and the intent is to provide open, compatible, interoperable signals with other GNSS. The position accuracy of the system is improving and it will focus on providing increased coverage to the Asia pacific region, along with a reliable low latitude service.

Augmentation Initiatives

The Summit also included a comprehensive update on regional GNSS and Space-Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS).

Deborah Lawrence from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provided an update on the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). The phased replacement of the system’s geostationary satellites is currently underway and newly ordered receivers have the capacity to access Galileo signals.

Currently some 3,379 Localiser Performance with Vertical guidance (LPV) procedures serving 1,667 airports in the US have been approved, with a further 400 procedures likely to be completed by the end of 2016. The FAA is devoting effort to Alternative Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) investigations to mitigate the loss of GPS signals. In the future, the FAA will look to take advantage of the opportunities offered by multi-constellation deployments and is already discussing what the requirements for a SBAS in the 2040s might be.

According to Ignacio Alcantarilla Medina from the European Commission, who provided an update on EGNOS, a budget of EUR 1.58 billion has been approved and the evolution to EGNOS V3 is underway. The successful 22 March 2014 satellite launch will help ensure full coverage of all EU Member States and enable expansion if required or requested by neighbouring states.

There are around 100 EGNOS-enabled LPV approaches approved so far in Europe and during 2014 a further 150 will be added.

Furthermore, the GSA – the new EGNOS exploitation entity – is now staffed in its Prague headquarters and has been in charge of the service provision since January 2014. A documented service definition was published in March 2013, together with an EGNOS Data Access Service (EDAS) V2 service definition document in April 2013. Currently, EDAS data availability is better than 99.99%.

On the Pacific side of the world, QZSS, the Japanese SBAS, has been proven as an operational concept and Japan is moving forward quickly to add another three satellites and ultimately hopes to have a total of seven in orbit. According to Japanese spokesperson, Eigo Nomura, the QZSS services will provide a L6 signal that is similar to Galileo’s E6 and could provide centimetre precise point positioning (PPP).

Source: GSA (The European Global Navigation Satellite Systems) Agency

Read More: Satellite Positioning, Navigation & Timing (PNT) Aerospace

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