Thursday, October 20, 2011

Galileo satellite launch

On October 19, European Space Agency ESA has launched another GIS satellite from French Guyana. It is part of a system of a global positioning system satellites that is planned to be fully operational in 2019.

"Galileo is Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, providing a highly accurate, guaranteed global positioning service under civilian control. It is inter-operable with GPS and Glonass, the two other global satellite navigation systems.

By offering dual frequencies as standard, Galileo will deliver real-time positioning accuracy down to the metre range. It will guarantee availability of the service under all but the most extreme circumstances and will inform users within seconds of any satellite failure, making it suitable for safety-critical applications such as guiding cars, running trains and landing aircraft." (ESA Galilea Web site)

Cruise missile
As so many other good inventions, also GPS started with the human need to efficiently kill other humans - and cruise missiles perform that task today very efficiently and accurately.  The deadly Tomahawk is a symbol of the military might of modern man. So is Taurus.

Taurus ILA2006 Cruise missile - Germany

"The idea of an "aerial torpedo" was shown in the British 1909 film The Airship Destroyer, where flying torpedoes controlled by wireless are used to bring down airships bombing London."

However, the military technology development to create a global positioning system that uses a network of satellites on geostationary orbits and sending positional signals has changed the utopian weapon into terrifying reality.

"A cruise missile is a guided missile that carries an explosive payload and is propelled, usually by a jet engine, towards a land-based or sea-based target. Cruise missiles are designed to deliver a large warhead over long distances with high accuracy. Modern cruise missiles can travel at supersonic or high subsonic speeds, are self-navigating, and can fly on a non-ballistic, extremely low altitude trajectory. They are distinct from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in that they are used only as weapons and not for reconnaissance. In a cruise missile, the warhead is integrated into the vehicle and the vehicle is always sacrificed in the mission." (wikipedia)

Geographic positioning systems
GPS is the fruit of technological developments and ideas that were demonstrated during and after the Second World War. With the exponential growth of space technology and investment the concept became functional reality.  The creating of the horrific killing machine, cruise missile, generated other ideas for navigation and promised such significant advances also to guiding submarines, war ships and military aircraft planes, that Pentagon convinced the senate and congress to invest the billions of dollars required. First GPS satellite was launched in 1989 and the final satellite, number 24, reached its geostationary orbit in 1994.

Well, the Russians could not rely on the good will of the Americans, could they?

GLONASS  ГЛОНАСС (Globalnaya navigatsionnaya sputnikovaya sistema) began in 1976. The system was completed in 1995 only a year after the US GPS system became functional. It is said to be the most expensive part of modern Russian space program with enormous investments made on the maintenance and upgrading of the orbiting satellites and the ground stations.

Well, the Chinese could not rely on the good will of the Americans or Russians, could they?

COMPASS (Beidou-2, BD2) is the Chinese equivalent of GPS and GLONASS and the completed system will include 35 satellites, five on geostationary orbits and thirty Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites. The first launch was on 13th of April, 2007 from Xichang and this massively expensive space program is going on with accelerated speed.

So what are the Europeans to do?

Should they trust the good will of the Yankees that they will not shut down their GPS system from European allies in case of some global conflict? Should the European ships, cars, air-planes trust the Russians on this so critical navigation? Or, by heavens sake, cooperate with the Chinese Maoist communist regime to keep their cruise missiles on track to the target?

No way, Jose!

GALILEO So the European nations got together and decided to build their own global positioning system not to have to depend on others. True, it is compatible with GPS and GLONASS as they say and the peaceful functions are emphasized. We are Europeans, after all, very peace loving people as the two World Wars demonstrate!

Not without a price, though...

"It has been a very long time in coming but this week the EU finally agreed to commit funding to the Galileo GPS system.

This £2+ billion pound project, projected to be operational by 2013, had been in limbo for some time with initial proposals that funding come from private investment proving to be unrealistic.

But not everyone is happy, the agreement was made without Spain's backing. Spain had wanted a greater degree of involvement and demanded a ground control station on its territory. Ground stations in Munich and Rome have been agree but the EU could not justify the expense of a third as Spain had demanded.

Concerns about cost and budget control remain of course, the EU and in fairness Government in general do not have a good track record on the control of spending on large projects such as this but Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) based in Guildford are expected to win a large part of the tender for the build of the satellites. SSTL were responsible for the build of a test vehicle (GIOVE-A) which was launched by ESA at the end of 2005 aboard a Soyuz launch rocket."

Global peace of the sky has been violated in a new way

Threatening sky above us
In the more innocent times we admired during the days the beauty of the God created Sun making our life possible on this Earth and at night the beautiful Moon and the brilliant stars eagerly exploring the light from distant galaxies, from the beginning of the creation.

Today we still look up admiring the Universe but there is also something evil lurking on that blue sky above us.  Day and night many cold hostile eyes are looking down on us from there and there is a constant music of GPS signals no matter where we happen to be on the surface of our unique planet.

Of course, it is nice and often quite useful to have a personal GPS on a tiny device in our pocket or on the car with a pleasant voice telling us where to turn after the next 200 meters - a feat of technology that nobody would have believed possible some ten years ago.

But those sinister cold eyes are there - capable of doing good or bad, of guiding us to our destination or aiming an aerial torpedo that can vaporize an entire city in seconds. Or a tiny missile that will hit our building entering from the right window with the accuracy of less than two centimetres.

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