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GPS III upgrade to rival Galileo

Right: GPS III will feature transmitters that are 500 times more powerful than the current satellites

The US is promoting details of its next-generation GPS service just days before Europe is expected to rubber-stamp the controversial public funding of its planned rival, the Galileo satellite navigation system.

Now the US military – which runs the GPS constellation – says it is planning a complete upgrade beginning in 2013, which is, coincidentally, the year when Galileo is likely to become operational.

GPS III will feature transmitters that are 500 times more powerful than the current satellites, making the signals stronger and more easily detectable. It will also have second and third frequencies, which will contain a signal specifically for civilian use, and provide real-time unaugmented 1m accuracy. This would parallel much of Galileo’s services.

The US Defense Department has already invited tenders for a contract worth US$1.8 billion to make the first of eight GPS III satellites, the winners of which will be announced early in 2008. The constellation will eventually consist of 32 satellites. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have already received orders worth US$160 million to develop groundstations and antennae.

Meanwhile, two European companies specializing in small satellites have announced that they will make joint bids to construct the Galileo satellites, after last week’s announcement by the  European Commission that the contract would be divided into six segments. It had been expected that astrium would build the spacecraft, but the new rules mean that Surrey Satellite Systems Limited and OHB can compete for the work.

November 28, 2007

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