It’s been a long time coming. With the capability to make a position fix from four signal-broadcasting satellites, we can now say that Galileo has truly arrived. Of course, this is only one of many milestones (excuse me, kilometer markers) along the way, a trajectory that could be bounded at 23 years and counting, or possibly longer. Let’s not forget, GPS had an extended gestation period of its own, as did GLONASS; BeiDou appears to be maturing a bit faster.
My acquaintance with the system began in July 2000, when I joined the staff of GPS World and received my first assignment, editing an article about GPS-bearing carrier pigeons in the sister publication Galileo’s World, from founding editor Glen Gibbons. We published Galileo’s World quarterly from 2000 to 2002, chronicling the ups and downs, forward steps and back, of the European GNSS. Unless you counted EGNOS — really telecom satellites with a piggyback SBAS payload — Galileo had no space vehicles as yet, but did encompass plenty of political and financial maneuvering, rhetoric, market projections, international negotiations, and technical blueprints. In short, the stuff of news. For application stories in the magazine, we filled with European uses of GPS, all of which would eventually integrate Galileo as well.
In 2002, a UK-based travel agency of the same name began to assert its legal possession of the name Galileo, and sent a cease-and-desist shot across the bows to the corporate ownership of the two magazines, and to the European Union. The EU felt it had sufficient legal clout or standing of some kind, for it neither desisted nor renamed its space program. But our counsel at the time instructed us to quietly fold up our tent and steal away. The impending battle wasn’t worth our stake.
And so Galileo’s World sadly ceased publication. Not for lack of interest, or support, or commitment. But because of someone else’s greed or turf belligerence in a completely unrelated market. Such is the way of the global economy.
We have covered every step of Galileo’s way, technically, economically, and politically, in the pages of GPS World. Occasionally we ponder calling ourselves GNSS World, or even PNT World. But the brand, like the satnav system it is named after, is just so strong, it would be foolhardy to walk away from it, at this point in time at least.