EGNOS, European Superiority, and the Need to Get ‘Very, Very Busy’

March 31, 2014 0 Comments

The European GNSS scene received an early Easter present with the successful launch of two new-generation transponders for the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS). The two geostationary transponders, GEO-2, rose on board the SES ASTRA 5B satellite from the European Space Port in Kourou, French Guiana, on March 22 via an Ariane 5 lifter. The new transponders will provide higher accuracy positioning signals to those citizens and professionals using EGNOS enabled receivers.

Together with the previous transponder replenishment on the SES-5 satellite launched in July 2012, GEO-2 will ensure the continuity and quality of the EGNOS open service and safety-of-life services for the next 15 years. Once validated in orbit, the signals will be introduced in current EGNOS operations and will support the new EGNOS generation (EGNOS V3). EGNOS V3 will provide dual-frequency signals on L1 and L5 bands and augment both GPS and Galileo constellations as part of the Multi-Constellations Regional System (MRS) concept.

EGNOS is currently made up of transponders on board three geostationary satellites (Artemis, Inmarsat 3F2, Inmarsat 4F2), and an interconnected ground network of forty positioning stations and four control centres which cover most of the territory of the European Union. The ASTRA 5B payload for EGNOS will essentially extend transponder capacity and geographical reach over Eastern Europe and neighbouring potential markets.

Europe’s first venture into satellite navigation, EGNOS represents a major stepping-stone towards Galileo. EGNOS improves the accuracy of GPS by providing a positioning accuracy to within three metres together with system integrity messages. The system offers three services: an Open Service that is free of charge; a Safety-of-life Service (SoL) that was certified for civil aviation in 2011; and a Commercial Service – the EGNOS Data Access Service (EDAS) that disseminates EGNOS data in real time.

Since the beginning of 2014 the European GNSS Agency (GSA) has been responsible for the operation and service provision of EGNOS. “The successful launch is an important achievement in view of the enhanced performance that EGNOS will provide both today and in the future,” said Carlo des Dorides, GSA executive director.

EGNOS Extension

Future extension of EGNOS was discussed at the recent Munich Satellite Summit (see below and other articles in this issue of EAGER).

While GSA is now EGNOS exploitation manager, the European Commission is responsible for the overall programme, said Ignacio Alcantarilla Medina, deputy EGNOS project manger at the Commission. With medium-term finances for the service secured, through a budget of € 1,580 million for the period 2014 to 2021, the main aim for service extension was to ensure complete coverage of all EU territories.

“Coverage of Member States is the priority; that is what budget is for,” said Alcantarilla Medina. This essentially means reinforcing coverage in the east of Europe and extreme north and overall increase robustness.

Currently (March 2014) there are 100 EGNOS-enabled LPV procedures for the civil air space published in Europe. During 2014 a further 150 LPV procedures should be completed, he stated.

Once all EU territory is adequately served, then further extension might be possible. International projects in terms of demonstration were being undertaken under the European Commission’s FP7 and Horizon 2020 research programmes and funding for international extensions could come from third party or Commission sponsored development funding.

Interestingly, in the light of recent political events, funding for extension of EGNOS to the Ukraine has already been allocated in the European Commission’s budget by DG Development. Other countries could benefit from this type of funding or from other international development aid. An ambitious flight test campaign over Moldova, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine was carried out in the second quarter of 2013 under the auspices of the EGNOS Extension to Eastern Europe: Applications (EEGS2) project. Full demonstration of EGNOS performances and capabilities was performed flying Instrument Landing System (ILS) overlay procedures and by providing real guidance to the pilots during final approach. In total, 19 flight trials were performed between April and June 2013.

European Showcase at Munich Summit

Perhaps the good EGNOS news created the warm glow bathing the Munich Satellite Summit in late March. While input arrived from all parts of the world and all major satellite navigation programmes — except Russia and GLONASS — the majority of the discussions focused on the European programmes, Galileo/EGNOS and Copernicus/Earth Observation, and thus by extension on European technological accomplishment.

Matthias Petschke, Director of EU Satellite Navigation Programmes at the European Commission proclaimed: “Galileo is a reality. We are on track again!” But he stressed that infrastructure does not automatically generate services, and the focus must now be on service provision. On integration, Petschke emphasised that in most cases services meant applications, and few current applications relied on only one source of data. This meant it was not a question of “whether” for integration, but “what else” can be gained from integration of data.

The big challenge is to transform space infrastructure into commercial service platforms that provide clear benefits to users and society. The introduction of Galileo Early Services, possibly as early as Q4 2014, would herald this move to service platforms and that was when Europe needed to “get very, very busy.”

Galileo Boasts of Superiority. The plenary audience heard repeated statements from leading European figures on the ‘superiority’ of the Galileo system over current GPS satellites. The grinding of teeth from the various U.S. delegates was almost audible on some occasions but, in the spirit of world peace, they deigned to publicly challenge such statements.

Typical was Jean-Jacques Dordain, director-general of ESA, who proclaimed Galileo as a success with technologies much better than GPS. Although he did concede that with 22 satellites still to launch this “was not the end of the process – but a real good start.”

Evert Dudok of Airbus Defence and Space stated, “To develop from scratch a system significantly better than GPS is not easy, but we are creating the best system.” A number of delegates supported this, indicating Galileo’s better-quality code and phase measurement signals that were particularly important for higher-accuracy applications. The excellent, over-specification performance of the initial four in-orbit satellites was often quoted.

From a commercial point of view, Carlo des Dorides of the GSA claimed that effectively the European Union already had a 25 percent share of the sat nav market and that one-third of the existing global receiver base was already Galileo compatible. He saw a great future for the system.

“Galileo is unique compared to other GNSS due to its civil nature,” said des Dorides. And the user was at centre of the system’s evolution, with developments in Galileo moving from technology push to demand pull. The clear role of GSA was to ensure that both Galileo and EGNOS delivered the valuable services they are designed to deliver.

Galileo’s public regulated service (PRS) should be a key factor in growing market share in secure civilian applications with its enhanced ability to counter intentional and unintentional signal interference – another main topic of the Summit. In a dedicated session on combating interference, the introduction of a ‘PRS-lite’ authentification signal on the Galileo open service was mooted, which could be a very interesting development.

The absence of any Russian input to the Munich SatNav Summit — save for a small pile of the unexpectedly glossy GLONASS Herald publication outside the registration hall — brought the chill of geopolitics into the usually apolitical space arena.

Does Augmentation Have a Future?

Another interesting question raised at the Summit – given the near-future fact of four compatible GNSS constellations on station – was whether there will be a role for augmentation systems such as EGNOS and WAAS?

Deborah Lawrence of the FAA was clear that her organisation was working to take advantage of the multi-constellation future and that the role of SBAS might change, but that the FAA is already looking towards what the requirements for SBAS in 2040 might be.

European Commission spokespersons agreed with the need for multi-constellation, globally interoperable SBAS for the foreseeable future, not least because the currently installed receiver base in the aviation sector would likely have a 20-year replacement horizon.______________

Tim Reynolds is director of Inta Communication Ltd. and a long-term Brussels observer writing on many aspects of European government policy and implementation for a range of clients and publications. The material presented here was first prepared in a somewhat different form for the GSA.
   He is the contributing editor for GPS World’s new quarterly e-newsletter, EAGER: the European GNSS and Earth Observation Report. Subscribe free at www.gpsworld.com/subscribe.

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