With the first Galileo satellites – Europe’s satellite navigation system, due to be launched next August, Fucino in central Italy formally entered into service. It will oversee the running of all the navigation services provided by Galileo. Fucino is one of two Galileo Control Centres – alongside Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in Germany – to monitor and control the Galileo satellites and ground stations and provide all the information products needed to support the Galileo navigation services. The twin control centres sit at the heart of Galileo’s far-flung network of satellites and ground stations distributed worldwide. They have split responsibilities although, with Galileo set to operate continuously, they are fully redundant, meaning that one can step in for the other in case of need. In the initial phase, while the Oberpfaffenhofen centre is in charge of controlling the satellites in space, Fucino holds responsibility for the overall navigation mission.
European Union (EU) ministers in Brussels have voted Prague to be the headquarters of Galileo. In an interview with Czech television, Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas said, “This is very good news because this will bring the most advanced technologies to the Czech Republic.” Several countries were vying to host the agency and in the final days Prague was competing against the Dutch town of Noordwijk to secure the agency’s headquarters.
Ministers in charge of space activities representing the Member States of the European Space Agency and the European Union met in Brussels for the Seventh Space Council. The Space Council unanimously endorsed a resolution that called for the necessary actions to deliver a space strategy that would enable economic growth, respond to public policy objectives and develop the vocations of science and technology in Europe.
High level representatives have weighed in on European space activities, including EGNOS and Galileo, at a recent conference hosted by the European Parliament. European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani said that Galileo and GMES are “tackling societal and environmental challenges”. With a revision of the Commission’s budget for space activities expected by the end of 2010, his comments were pertinent. Galileo, he said, in combination with GMES, will be a key tool for agriculture in the future, particularly important in helping to insure food stocks in the developing world. EGNOS, the European satellite navigation augmentation system, is already making great strides in the precision agriculture market.