Galileo Navigation Satellites take a Wrong Turn
The European effort to create a rival for the American GPS system has hit an ironic snag this month – the two latest satellites launched as part of the Galileo system, named Doresa and Milena, appear to have entered the wrong orbit by accident, and it’s unlikely the mistake can be corrected.
In a multi-partner operation, the satellites were launched from French Guyana on a Russian Soyuz rocket, with Arianespace and the European Space Agency organising. Investigations are underway into the cause of the problem, but fingers crossed this shouldn’t have too much impact on the project as a whole.
The Galileo network, which will eventually be comprised of 30 satellites, has a £7 billion budget and is expected to be operational by 2017, with several more satellites going up over the next 12 months, hopefully into the correct positions in future. Thousands of jobs are expected to be created Europe-wide by the massive project, which will remove the European reliance on America’s satellite navigation system, known as GPS.
Over the last decade we have begun to depend on sat nav, and sales of traditional road maps have plummeted. We put so much faith in the dashboard-mounted devices that some people have even followed them into rivers against their better judgement.
There are a couple of issues with GPS – one is that the atomic clocks in its satellites can have error margins of up to 10 nanoseconds every 24 hours. Sounds tiny but it can result in big errors in judging distance. The Galileo clocks are incredibly advanced and reduce that error margin to just one nanosecond, meaning far more accuracy.
Secondly, the system will cover all of northern Europe – currently GPS doesn’t reach the most northern parts.
So for drivers, the Galileo system will mean noticeably more accurate directions, and a host of new applications that can transform the way we get around and source information. The future is an exciting place.
Bear in mind that Galileo won’t be fully operational for some years yet, so if you’re in the market for a GPS device to last you til then, check out our fantastic range in stock now.