Precision Navigation In European Skies

Geostationary satellites provide differential GPS with a positioning accuracy of 1-2 meters

3 min read

A global system of air traffic control based entirely on global positioning systems, an inevitable idea that has been inching toward realization for more than a decade, came a centimeter or two closer on 6 June, with the first transmission of test signals from the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (Egnos). The point of Egnos is to provide error correction to geopositioning signals, relying on dedicated equipment installed on three geostationary satellites and a network of ground reference stations [see map], so that locations can be determined at an accuracy of close to 1 meter.

For now, Egnos will error-correct signals from the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia’s Global Navigation Satellite System (Glonass). Eventually, though, the expectation is that it will error-correct signals from Europe's own constellation of global positioning satellites, dubbed Galileo. Galileo will rely on 30 low-earth-orbiting satellites, together with ground stations, and is expected to begin transmitting its first test signals in 2006.

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Top Tech 2022: A Special Report

Preview two dozen exciting technical developments that are in the pipeline for the coming year

1 min read
Photo of the lower part of a rocket in an engineering bay.

NASA’s Space Launch System will carry Orion to the moon.

Frank Michaux/NASA

At the start of each year, IEEE Spectrum attempts to predict the future. It can be tricky, but we do our best, filling the January issue with a couple of dozen reports, short and long, about developments the editors expect to make news in the coming year.

This isn’t hard to do when the project has been in the works for a long time and is progressing on schedule—the coming first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, for example. For other stories, we must go farther out on a limb. A case in point: the description of a hardware wallet for Bitcoin that the company formerly known as Square (which recently changed its name to Block) is developing but won’t officially comment on. One thing we can predict with confidence, though, is that Spectrum readers, familiar with the vicissitudes of technical development work, will understand if some of these projects don’t, in fact, pan out. That’s still okay.

Engineering, like life, is as much about the journey as the destination.

See all stories from our Top Tech 2022 Special Report

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