Positioning and satellite navigation have long since become part of every-day life. This is despite the fact that utilization of this technology was subject to military restrictions for many years. As a result, these applications have only been widely available for civilian use since the beginning of the new millennium.

For a long time, the internationally well-known American Global Position System (GPS) was the only system available. Developed in the mid seventies for the US Ministry of Defense, the system reached full functional capacity in the mid nineties. However, the signal was deliberately interfered with (selective availability = SA) to temporarily prevent non-authorized uses from accessing precise positioning data. The SA was only deactivated in May 2000 in a move which ushered in the widespread use of mobile navigation devices for all types of vehicles as well as positioning via mobile telephones.

However, as GPS is still not a solely civilian system and is a US monopoly, the governments of the major space travel nations Russia, China and Europe have set themselves the goal of developing systems of their own. Russia has the GLONASS system althought it is still being used solely for military purposes. China has launched satellites for its BEIDOU/COMPASS system.  

Europe has decided to establish its own global navigation system Galileo*. The system will comprise a worldwide network of ground stations and a set of 24 navigation satellites plus spares in three orbital planes.

The European Space Agency ESA has awarded OHB System AG with the production of the Galileo FOC satellites (Full Operational Capability) (at present 34 satellites). ESA in this case acts on behalf of the European Commission. In parallel, experts at OHB System AG are working on designs for the next generation of navigation satellites and further services it shall provide.

* The Full Operational Capability phase of the Galileo programme is managed and fully funded by the European Union. The Commission and ESA have signed a delegation agreement by which ESA acts as design and procurement agent on behalf of the Commission. The views expressed here can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union and/or ESA. “Galileo” is a trademark subject to OHIM application number 002742237 by EU and ESA.