Global Positioning Systems

Global Positioning Systems

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The ambitious Galileo project struggles to survive, while Russia launches three navigation satellite

Europe GPS Plan in doldrums?
European officials say U.S. pressure appears to have torpedoed a $3 billion project to build a European version of the U.S. global positioning system, which uses signals from orbiting satellites to track geographical position on Earth’s surface.

The proposed system, dubbed Galileo, was intended to give Europeans more autonomy, both industrially and militarily. Also, European plans to develop a rapid-reaction military force will become much more credible with their own GPS in military operations. But U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz sent a letter to all 15 European Union defense ministers last month, urging them to influence their governments not to proceed with Galileo. That deferred any decision on the project, and now looks to have brought its momentum to a halt. This has engulfed the Galileo project with uncertainty.

Recently, the Price Waterhouse Coopers consultants study (November 2001) showed that the project is economically justified. The report said that total benefits of 17.8 billion Euro outweigh costs of 3.9 billion, implying a benefit: cost ratio of 1:4.5. However, the recent US communication has put the project to a halt. Gilles Gantelet, spokesman for Loyola de Palacio, the European commissioner in charge of the project, said.” We expect that we could have the decision by March at the latest. If there is no decision in March, then we could consider Galileo … dead.” Russia launches three navigation satellites
A Proton K/DM2 successfully launched three Global’naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (Global Navigation Satellite System – GLONASS) satellites from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 1804 UTC on December 1.

The satellites were named Kosmos 2380, Kosmos 2381 and Kosmos 2382. The Proton placed the satellites into an elliptical orbit with an apogee of 19,100 km (10,313 nmi) with an inclination of 64.8 degrees. Each satellite will use its own propulsion system to circularise its orbit and move into its final orbital position within the GLONASS network. NPO PM, Zheleznogorsk, is responsible for the overall development of the GLONASS system, while PO Polyot, Omsk, builds the Uragan spacecraft bus.

The 1415 kg (3120 lbm) Uragan satellite bus historically has had a design life of three years. A 1500 kg (3300 lbm) Uragan M spacecraft bus is being introduced, having a six-year design life. Kosmos 2382 was the first Uragan M bus launched for the GLONASS constellation. To reduce the cost of the GLONASS system even further, Russia plans to conduct further launches of the GLONASS spacecraft using Soyuz-Fregat rockets launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. It is estimated that the Soyuz-Fregat will cost half the price of a Proton.

GPS Receiver
Fastrax GPS Receiver Trax02 GPS receiver is roughly the size of a stamp, 26x26x4.7mm. The small foot print combined with ultra-low power consumption and low cost make it feasible to apply GPS positioning technology in mass-market applications.

The iTrax02 module requires 130mW at 2.7V (continuous mode) while the most efficient modules so far have typically consumed 140mA at 3.3V, equivalent to 462mW or more. This improvement in power consumption can be fully utilised by longer operating times. The appliances equipped with iTrax02 GPS receivers can run at least 4 times longer than most battery powered devices with other GPS modules. The iTrax receivers are ultra sensitive and capable to support external passive antennas, giving the idea of low power consumption a totally new meaning.