[Satellite News 07-30-12] The European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) is Europe’s first venture into the field of satellite navigation and paves the way for the continent’s Galileo satellite navigation system. EGNOS also augments the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) in order to improve the navigation performance in terms of accuracy and integrity with the required levels of availability and continuity of service over Europe. EGNOS currently offers two free-of-charge services: the Open service, which launched in October 2009, and the Safety-of-Life service that went into operation in March 2011.
European Commission (EC) Vice President Antonio Tajani spoke with Satellite News about another leap forward that the commission is taking with the launch of a second EGNOS satellite and a third service — the EGNOS Data Access Service (EDAS) — by the end of July.
Satellite News: How does the EDAS service enhance the EGNOS platform?
Tajani: Thanks to EDAS, users will be able to access EGNOS information through the Internet, even when they are not in a position to get the signal because of obstruction in urban areas. This is a great advantage for citizens and businesses on the move. EDAS will also provide additional information than the one broadcasted by the satellites, enabling new and innovative products and services such as applications in automatic road-tolling, inland waterway navigation, transportation of dangerous goods or the mapping of public infrastructure.
Satellite News: What are the main challenges that the EC is focusing on ahead of launching the second EGNOS satellite?
Tajani: The commission will now focus on securing the budget necessary to operate EGNOS, in line with the long-term commitment to support EGNOS, which will provide services along with Galileo when the latter becomes operational. Moving the EGNOS system towards a multi-frequency and multi-constellation configuration is a major evolution that is currently being assessed with the objective to have it operational by 2020. We also will be focusing on extending the coverage area of EGNOS to countries on the E.U.’s borders and North Africa.
Satellite News: How will the new capacity on the second satellite be used?
Tajani: The capacity of the second GEO satellite will be used in continuity of the current capacity that will gradually be phased out. We must replace the current satellites that are approaching their end of life, such as Artemis. We must also provide sufficient in-orbit capacity redundancy to cope with satellite relocation outside of the EGNOS coverage, such as the possible relocation of the Inmarsat 4F2 satellite. The current EGNOS system is still using the Inmarsat 3F2 satellite that is currently approaching its end of life and a third GEO transponder will be required in the 2017 timeframe. Furthermore, the capacity procured by the commission via the new GEO satellite covers the E-1 and E-5, allowing the implementation of the future L5 SBAS standard in the coming years. The current Inmarsat 3F2 does not have any E-5 capacity. In addition to the L-5 band, the new GEO cover the complete E-5 band, which will allow the provision of additional integrity on the Galileo signals in the future.
Satellite News: The EC has adopted the hosted payload model to this approach. What are the major benefits of using the hosted payload concept?
Tajani: The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) in the United States is following the same approach. EGNOS, which is a satellite-based augmentation system, is only using the service of a GEO transponder to broadcast the SBAS signals. This fits perfectly with the business processes already in place in the satellite telecommunications industry where satellite operators lease capacity to TV broadcasters or other telecommunications services. Owning a satellite was not an option due to budgetary constraints. The concept works particularly well for the EC when the satellite guarantees European coverage, which is the case when the payload is hosted on TV broadcasting satellites that are generally designed specifically to cover a particular region of the Earth.
Satellite News: Do you expect the EC will continue with the hosted payload model in the future?
Tajani: Yes. We expect to continue to use hosted payload in the future. In view of a third GEO transponder, the next decision to be taken is in 2014.
Satellite News: How will the EC look to invest in new satcom technology and communications infrastructure going forward?
Tajani: The EC has been working closely with the commercial satellite sector during the last few years and our mutual understanding has improved. During this time, the EC has been pursuing a strategy of ‘technological neutrality’ regarding the means for reaching the goals of Europe’s Digital Agenda. The satellite communication industry is highly competitive on a global scale. Research in this field is necessary to ensure a competitive European space and satellite communications industry. The EC’s support to satellite communications research primarily targets interoperability with terrestrial systems, end-to-end network management and novel broadcasting systems, with an approach complementing that of the space agencies.
Under our 7th Framework Program, the Integral Satcom Initiative (ISI), a satellite communications European Technology Platform (ETP) was created that currently accounts for about 200 members, with all the main stakeholders of the industry being represented. ISI has developed a Strategic Research Agenda as a roadmap for research activities, and it has also outlined the Integrated Space Infrastructure for global Communications (ISICOM) concept as an advanced European satellite communication system fully integrated with global terrestrial communication networks and able to complement Galileo and GMES by adding important value and functionalities.
In the 7th Framework Program, a specific mention goes to research projects foreseen to address mainly the efficient and seamless integration of satellite and terrestrial networks. This approach towards satellite communication will be pursued in 2013.