An Occasion to Hail U.S.-EU Cooperation on Galileo

By Brian Hardesty, Political-Military Officer at the U.S. Mission to the EU

Hologram of Galileo satellite. Photo by author
Hologram of Galileo satellite. Photo by author

The successful launch of the seventh and eighth Galileo satellites is cause for a toast – on both sides of the Atlantic. For me personally, watching the constellation take shape is something to marvel at. I was pursuing EU studies when the Galileo program was nascent; now I am in Brussels and more and more satellites are in orbit! There have been bumps along the way, but now Brussels and Washington recognize the Galileo program speaks to a vision of the Union that can deliver for its citizens and achieve great things.

Indeed, the U.S. and Europe share a common vision. We both see the need for compatible and interoperable global and regional navigation satellite systems. By working together on this goal, we are paving the way for the development of new technologies and innovations that will keep our people safer, create more jobs, and improve the quality of life for our citizens.

GPS-Galileo cooperation is the centerpiece of this vision. The U.S. and EU signed a GPS-Galileo Cooperation Agreement in 2004. Ever since, we have been working together to develop compatible and interoperable civil signals providing complementary civil services in an open and transparent manner that maximizes the potential for innovation in the commercial sector.

European Space Expo. Photo by author
European Space Expo. Photo by author

Satellite navigation applications reduce use of pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture, improving our environment while reducing farming costs. Remote health monitors allow people to lead more full and productive lives while improving the speed with which emergency health care can be provided. If you’ve done any financial transfer using a mobile phone, you’ve used this technology.  In the United States, we now estimate sales of GPS-related products and services to be over $40 billion annually.

As a result of our GPS-Galileo cooperation, the U.S. and EU jointly developed a new common civil signal that is becoming the de facto future world standard. That signal, known as L1C, is now being adopted by the global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) of other countries and by the Japanese regional navigation system. This modern signal design will produce better performance in challenging reception environments including indoors, and enhance technology applications.

The U.S. and EU are also discussing how to develop receivers that could simultaneously use the signals from GPS and Galileo, along with other satellite constellations. These multi-system receivers and the further innovations they spur will improve the overall resiliency of both the U.S. and EU based satellite systems and make their service more reliable for both government and commercial applications.

These facts and figures may seem dry, but there are more ways to learn about what the EU is doing in space that help bring the topic to life. This past weekend visiting Athens, I stumbled on the European Space Expo in Syntagma Square. Clearly, the EU is doing its part to get the word out about the benefits of space activities. If I could add just one point to the displays there, it would be that the future is better together, as in so many areas of U.S.-EU cooperation.

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