Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Anybody who thinks that the EU can actually deliver anything worthwhile really ought to take a close look at its prestige project, the Galileo satellite positioning system.

Already years late and bogged down with financial woes, the "colleagues" at least thought they could get their second test satellite up and flying by the end of this year.

But no, not even that is going to happen. According to Heise online, having originally been scheduled to lift off in the Spring of 2006, Giove-B is not now expected to be launched until March 2008. The reason given this time is "delays in the completion of the Russian Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur launch site".

Whatever the excuse this time, the project was originally scheduled for completion in 2008 and, while the official target is now 2012, some analysts were already suggesting in March that 2014 was more realistic. Now, even that date looks in doubt.

Meanwhile, the United States has quietly dealt another blow to the case for Galileo. Its proponents have long argued it was necessary because the US Navstar system was designed for military purposes and can be disabled for civilian use in time of war.

But the US Forces have now developed the technology for highly localised degradation of the GPS signal, to prevent it being used to target weapons against its forces, Thus president Bush was able recently to announced that the planned third generation of Navstar would not be equipped with a facility to degrade its own signal at source.

Therefore, even if it wanted selectively to degrade the system, the US will no longer have the facility to do so, allowing the White House to claim that it was "eliminating a source of uncertainty in GPS performance that has been of concern to civil GPS users worldwide".

By the time Galileo is eventually commissioned – if at all – third generation Navstar satellites will also be up and running, offering an accuracy at least that claimed of the as yet untested EU system.

Putting that all together, therefore, the EU’s system can best be described in one word: "stuffed".


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