The Galileo satellite constellation has begun providing positioning, navigation and timing information for shipping, offshore and search and rescue operations. The European Space Agency (ESA) has officially begun open services over the first 18 satellites in the Galileo constellation.
The official opening ceremony was held at the European Commission’s buildings in Brussels, Belgium. European Commission’s vice president responsible for the Energy Union, Maroš Šefèoviè commented: “With Galileo, Europe gains its own satellite navigation system that will improve a range of everyday services for our citizens and strengthens Europe’s strategic autonomy.”
Galileo is Europe’s global satellite navigation system (GNSS). It joins the US-funded Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s Glonass as official constellations for providing positioning, navigation and timing information. Ships use this information for modern electronic navigation and offshore vessels use this for dynamic positioning operations. Search and rescue services use the information to locate stranded vessels and manage recovery operations.
The European GNSS Agency (GSA) is responsible for operating the constellation and service. As of 1 January 2017, the GSA will have the core task of ensuring a return on investment from Galileo in the form of clear, across-the-board services and applications for end users. “The centre of gravity for the Galileo programme is now the user, meaning European citizens, businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit from the many innovative opportunities created by European GNSS,” said GSA executive director Carlo des Dorides.
More satellites are being built and launched for the Galileo GNSS. This means its full operational capability will not be achieved until 2020.