Galileo Satellite System


There was one time where I was travelling and I decided to camp out, and just so you know this place is nothing like deep in the Amazon jungle or anything and it’s more towards like camping out in Central Park, New York at night.

What ended up was I lost my signal, and you know the hysteria that follows with it whenever you are in the situation where there’s no Wi-Fi.

Now that’s not the only thing I lost that night, I lost myself trying to find a nearby convenience store and it gets interesting. If you want to know the rest of the story, add me on Snapchat (down below the post), I’ll tell you the rest 😉

Back to the main topic, even in the most urban places, I don’t know if you ever experienced this, but quite often I find that I lose the signal and end up getting lost. Now, the great thing is, is that won’t be for too long.

Europe just came up with Galileo, a killer new global navigation satellite system that will reach more places and work more precisely than what GPS services are using today.




So what is Galileo?

Galileo is a global navigation satellite system created by the European Union and it make should your phone run better and at the same time offer new possibilities for both corporate and government users to further bring more advancements.

The civilian-controlled satellite system has its first grand opening, announced this month, and you can expect a lot of providers from a variety of location-driven services and products, such as specialized navigation systems, mobile phones to car makers to be adding the signal like that of the 70 satellites in the American GPS and Russian GLONASS systems.

Some notable names that are already eager to go through with it are Chinese phone makers Huawei and BQ.

Galileo is set to be completed by 2020, and by then, it will have taken two decades (yeah, I know, that’s nearly as old as me) and an estimated $10 billion to build.

It is also currently available for free public use.




What can Galileo do?

More Signals 

I’ll explain to you and it is pretty simple. As they deploy these satellites, you are going to get more available satellite signals which give more options for your receiver to choose from.

Let’s say if buildings or other devices interfere with these signals in one direction, then what the receiver can do, is use the other available signals which are less noisy and uninterrupted from a satellite elsewhere.

So if it were in my case, if I were to go camping again in Central Park and if I were ever to be in a situation where I couldn’t get a signal or if most of my signals that my receiver received were noisy and interrupted then my receiver has more options to choose from and it will ideally choose the best signal and allow me to make that SOS call.

Moreover, since there are more satellites covering new ground with the new Galileo, that will allow me to go to places like the Sahara desert and actually make a call to my Grandma and ask her how she is doing and have a wonderful conversation like we always do.

A few renowned experts have also had thing or two to say about the Galileo and how it can be beneficial in many ways.


Richard Langley, a geospatial expert at the University of New Brunswick in Canada and a member of a working group focused on research uses for Galileo’s data said that the Galileo satellites will make it easier to get a signal in places covered by fewer satellites.

Places, especially, like the far north of Europe, can benefit from the new Galileo satellite system and at the same provide accurate and faster positioning elsewhere.

Langley also added that, even if it is just one additional satellite, it “can make a huge difference” in position accuracy



Your Phone Gets Better

Lukasz Bonenberg, from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, who is currently helping to build the Galileo satellite system added that whenever your phone finds less noisy signals, it indirectly also frees the device’s processor that can be used instead for other heavy loaded tasks which in turn make your phone run better and more capable.

If you are one of those developers that attended the Galileo Hackathon last month, or if you’re just a developer, then you might find this helpful, as Bonenberg added, as it will allow you to design software that focusses more on the location data side of things rather than having to worry about helping to interpret it.



Search-and-rescue missions

Other than making your phone run much better, or improve your everyday devices and services like your navigation systems, mobile phones, or your car, Galileo will come in handy to speed up search-and-rescue operations.

Let me ask you a question, do you know how long it takes these days for a distress signal to reach the low-orbiting satellites?

It takes hours, yes hours, to confirm a position and I’m pretty sure by then, Captain Phillips will be taken hostage by the Somalian Pirates back to Somalia.

In these such cases to avoid the delay, it is usually better suited to rely on the navigation satellites, which tend to orbit higher than the previous satellites.

However the only downside to this approach is that, only the newest American GPS and Russian GLONASS satellites have the right hardware.

That’s where the Galileo satellites come into play, and since they come in many and are high orbiting navigation satellites,  they will be able to locate rescue beacons in just a mere 10 minutes.

In times of emergencies there will also be an encrypted channel that will only be available to the government agencies.




Not just a European system

This very minute, there are currently 18 satellites out of the 24 total satellites currently in space that makes up the Galileo satellite system. The other six will be deployed over the next three years by the satellite system’s operator which is the European Space Agency. Only after deploying the six satellites will there be enough for a full global coverage of Earth.

Now unless if you are an engineer working with satellites or simply listens to radios all day then you might not know, that there is a problematic history between the GPS and GLONASS satellites and the dud satellites which resulted before in a minute crisis.

That’s why there has been an additional six more satellites that have been added to serve as a backup to the 24 total satellites satellites. With this it brings a grand combined total of 30 satellites for the Galileo satellite system.

Now even if Galileo might be Europe’s answer to expanding their economic capabilities and providing faster and accurate positioning to bring coverage to places where there were none before, it is just one of the many growing number of satellite navigation systems that are currently being worked on all over the world.

Take a look at China’s very own satellite navigation system, Beidou, which is also scheduled for completion by 2020 along with the Galileo.

Other countries that are also participating in this initiative are India and Japan, with their very own regional navigation systems.

One thing is for certain and that is that, all these satellite systems are able to exchange and make use of information in large quantities and the researchers around the world are working hard to develop efficient algorithms to combine all these individual signals from multiple satellite systems from multiple countries to work as one whole satellite system.


You and I can both expect a future, where as more of these satellites come online, our location information will only get even better than that of yesterday’s.



Further Reading 



The Problematic History With GPS and GLONASS


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Galileo Satellite System