Europe’s Galileo Satellite takes off

EU finally managed blast of a couple of Galileo satellites into orbit on Friday from the French Guiana. These left Earth’s gravitational field on top of a Soyuz rocket and they will be followed by two more next year. 30 satellites will be deployed in total and the expected date of operation for the Galileo satellite positioning system is 2014. The project had some funding problems along the way but the economic impact should be 90 billions Euros for the next 20 years.

Galileo has the most accurate atomic clock on board that is good for one second in three million years.

Putin wants to put GLONASS receivers in all Russian cars

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - who single handedly put out two forests fires recently - wants all cars in Russia to be equipped with GLONASS receiver by 2012. Russian reporters said he wanted this to improve road security which really does not mean much.

GLONASS faces competition from Europe’s Galileo and US’ GPS; so Russia is launching six new GLONASS satellites this year to provide global GPS navigation coverage…

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better performance when using both GPS and Galileo

Some U.S. and EU officials got together and put out a report [pdf] that says the use of GPS and Galileo together improved availability for a wide range of aviation services in both hemispheres and significantly improved robustness to GPS satellite outages. It seems like a no-brainer but I guess somebody actually had to do some tests and confirm this.

The most significant improvement was seen when in partially obscured environments where view of the sky is was not clear.

What does this mean for you? You may see some consumer products in the future that use signals from both GPS and Galileo satellites that may have a better coverage than only one is used.

GPS enabled phones up 92%

According to an analysis firm in Sweden the number of GPS enabled handsets shipped worldwide increased 92% in 2009 to 150 million. If it continues with its 39% compound annual growth rate this number will be up to 770 million in 2014.

The articles acknowledges that almost all smartphones have GPS feature standard and the same is about to happen to even low-cost smartphones.

It also says that feature devices will be able to analyze signals from GPS, Glonass, and Galileo at the same time but this still won’t be able to provide a reliable location info when indoors. To circumvent the problem measurements from cellular networks, and WiFi signals will have to be used together.

“Chipset developers and handset vendors are already working on next-generation location technologies that will address the limitations of GPS when using handsets in urban canyons and indoors,” said Andre Malm, a senior analyst with Berg Insight, in a statement. “Multi-mode receivers that also support the Russian Glonass satellite system will appear in handsets in 2011. By combining the two systems, more visible satellites will increase the chance to receive sufficiently strong signals to get a fix in more locations.”

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Europe’s Galileo to launch in 2014

As you may already know European Union has been relying on USA’s GPS satellites for positioning for many many years. They want to break this dependency with their own set of positioning satellites, called Galileo.

European Comission just awarded contracts to build the first 14 satellites to a German company, which will send them to space using Russian Soyuz rockets. If everything goes to plan Galileo could be operational as soon as 2014.

Galileo project started back in 1999.

Last year, the European Court of Auditors criticised the Galileo project as ill-prepared and badly managed.

The commission said some services would be available by early 2014, including the “open service,” which will be freely available to the public in Europe, just as the US GPS system is.

Also available early will be the search and rescue service.

Read more about other nations’ navigation satellite wars.


new EU satellite system to fine tune GPS

The European Union recently launched a satellite navigation network to fine tune U.S.’s world wide used GPS satellite accuracy from 10 meters down to 2 meters. The new solution will help pilots, motorists and even blind people.

The EGNOS system (European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service) will utilize three satellites and 40 ground stations to narrow the horizontal accuracy and make some improvement over the vertical accuracy.

EGNOS will be paving the way for Galileo project, a European satellite system which will eventually stop EU’s dependency on U.S’s GPS satellites by 2014.

EGNOS is open to everyone with a GPS/SBAS compatible receiver and currently covers 27 EU countries.

SiRFprima supports GPS and Galileo

sirf.jpgSiRF just introduced SiRFprima, a new super sensitive GPS receiver platform combined with hardware-accelerated 3D graphics and multimedia encoding and decoding engines designed to significantly enhance user experience for location applications and media rich content.

The SiRFprima multifunction processor delivers SiRF’s renowned, industry leading, GPS-enabled location performance, featuring 64 channels with -161 dBm sensitivity. The hardware scalable location engine, with more than 1,000,000 correlators, is among the first capable of working with both GPS and Galileo signals simultaneously. Additionally, the SiRFprima processor has been specifically designed to support SiRF’s proprietary GPS technologies, providing, for example, a dedicated accelerator for the SiRFInstantFixII technology.

SiRFprima also has the ability to support peripheral and external interfaces for connecting to touch screens, mass storage devices, video cameras, DVD players, satellite radios and other devices.

The SiRFprima multifunction platform will begin sampling to lead customers in the second quarter of this year.

China wants the ability to destroy GPS satellites when above China

According to the annual report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, the Chinese military is acquiring the “ability to destroy or temporarily incapacitate every enemy space vehicle when it is located above China”.

The Chinese also plan to attack U.S. global positioning system (GPS) satellites through various means, including anti-satellite weapons, high-energy weapons, high-energy weather monitoring rockets and ground attacks on earth-based stations.

I guess if this ever happens, then U.S. would bring down China’s Beidou - and then not to be left out of the game Russian would attempt to hit EU’s Galileo satellites until every positioning satellite left in orbit is knocked out of the sky. So if you ever experience some sort of interruption in your GPS signal reception you can be sure that WWIII has started. But seriously, check out our article on navigation satellite programs if you want to learn about other nations’ GPS programs… via

eTrex Vista HCx now official - no Galileo

Garmin’s new addition to the eTrex series, the eTrex Vista HCx just got the official announcement from Garmin today. When we first announced the new eTrex series a few days ago we said they have support for the upcoming Galileo navigation satellite system built by EU but the Garmin does not mention such thing. We’ll just go ahead and blame our source.

Anyhow, the eTrex Vista HCx is still quite capable despite lack of support for Galileo. It has a color screen, barometric altimeter, and an electronic compass that can you show you where north is without making you run in a straight line. Vista HCx accepts microSD cards, which means you can insert your MapSource card (requires extra cash) with detailed street maps, and Vista HCx can provide turn-by-turn directions to your destination just like a car navigation system.

Another nice thing about Vista HCx is that it runs on AA batteries so you won’t have to worry about plugging after the first 25 hours - just take some batteries with you.

Suggested retail price for the eTrex Vista HCx is $320.

new eTrex H from Garmin with Galileo support

Garmin will be coming out with a new eTrex model (eTrex H) this fall that will support both GPS and Europe’s upcoming Galileo. Other new models that will support Galileo will be the eTrex Legend HCx, and the eTrex Vista HCx. However the devices are not Galileo ready out of the box but will accommodate a drop-in chip when available.

Specs of the new models after the jump…

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