Finding the way with Galileo

The STFC’s Laboratories and support of the European Space Agency have meant we have played a key role in the development of the new European GPS system called Galileo, whose economic impact has already been substantial.

Satellite-based navigation and positioning systems have become an important part of our lives and GPS is critical to the efficient functioning of many sectors. Obvious applications include transport, military and recreation but many are unaware how GPS underpins energy, banking, agriculture and environmental management industries.

GPS (Global Positioning Systems) is a US military application that has been gradually adapted for civilian use. Galileo, Europe’s own satellite navigation system, is currently under development by the European Union and the European Space Agency, previously supported by STFC and now the UKSA. It will provide an independent and secure European navigation system that will also be more advanced than the US GPS monopoly. Industry commentators predict that key benefits will be shorter journey times, more direct journeys, monitoring of waste disposal and transport safety improvements. All estimated to be worth £18 billion to the UK economy by 2025.

Galileo will provide its high-precision services through a network of 30 orbiting satellites. The first satellite, GIOVE A, was launched in 2005 and STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory provides the satellite’s ground station whilst STFC’s Chilbolton Laboratory acts as its data receiver.

Many UK companies have already benefited from the project including Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, LogicaCMG UK and EADS Astrium. The estimated value added contribution of contracts won by UK industry was £230 million in 2007 and it is expected that UK industry will win an additional £500 million of contracts as the system develops. Additionally, London has already been chosen as the site for Galileo’s operation company, OpCo, which is expected to build to a turnover of £110 million per year by 2011.

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000