The GNSS race

Mar 2010 | No Comment

Every country has the legal right to build its own satellite navigation system

Bernd Eissfeller

Faculty of Aerospace
Engineering University of the Armed Forces Munich, Germany

The term GNSS Race, which came up already some years ago, clearly implies that in this field a situation like in car racing or other disciplines of sport is present. And it looks like that at a first glance: One system i.e. GPS was in the pool position, and also GLONASS was in excellent position in the early 90ties. Other systems entered into the race later. But however, a race goes typically over many rounds and a long distance. In many cases the pool position is the key to be the winner at final end but not in any case. If a racing car gets out of control a severe collision and damage with the other drivers could result. Sometimes the race has to be terminated and will never be finished.

For my point of view the analogy between the competition in satellite navigation and a Grand Prix is somewhat misleading: The motivation for major countries to invest in satellite navigation is driven by more serious reasoning and not by the idea of sports: On the one hand a main driver is the sovereignty issue and on the other hand a significant commercial motivation exists, getting access to the high tech market of GNSS user equipment and integrated navigation systems. Being a dual use system GNSS does offer the opportunity to cover these two main motivations by a single system or in other words by a single investment in the required infrastructure. Thus, I think every country has the legal right to built-up a satellite navigation system on its own. But however, in order to mitigate the risk of collision or better inter-system interference international standards, regulations and methodologies should be elaborated for GNSS compatibility and should be observed by all players. A fair competition between systems is beneficial like we see in the case of GPS and Galileo, because competition is enhancing the process of innovation. If such fair and accepted rules are followed by each participant the GNSS race will be an enjoyable event and will be of benefit to the globalized world.

But coming finally back to sports: If rules in sports are violated there is usually a way of sanctioning. Installing such a process for GNSS compatibility based on international law is a big challenge for the international community of states. Some indications are visible today that the GNSS race will not work without international rules.

Complementary relationship will grow stronger in the future

Hiroaki Tateshita

Satellite Application and Promotion Center
Space Applications Mission Directorate, Japan

Japan is one of GNSS providers, which has been developing Quasi Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) and participates in the International Committee on GNSS (ICG). The first Quasi Zenith Satellite (QZS-1) will be launched in this summer.

In Japan, the utilization of geospatial information is regarded as the significant topic, and Japanese government enacted relevant strategic policies such as “Basic Act on the Advancement of Utilizing Geospatial Information”, and “Basic plan on the Advancement of Utilizing Geospatial Information”. In these policies, Space-based PNT service with QZSS is positioned as one of the necessary elements. Regarding “GNSS race” (I don’t actually think it is “RACE”), I imagine the complementary relationship will grow stronger in the future. As a result of Multi GNSS, we might see more than 100 SVs around the earth. Satellite positioning service by GPS has become a social infrastructure. I believe Multi GNSS brings more convenient PNT service to users, such as wider service area and more detailed positioning. I think the GNSS providers might pay attentions to the attractive benefits of Multi GNSS.

The increase of SV, which is provided by complementary relationship, must dramatically improve the reliability, availability, accuracy, and economic efficiency. I imagine the GNSS providers will choose those attractive improvements while they keep national pride and military needs to the minimum. I understand the GNSS providers are seeking what they can contribute and take charge of through IGC. Japan has designed QZSS to be fully interoperable with GPS. The development plan of second and later satellites of QZSS has not been decided yet, but I think the interoperability with Multi GNSS is very important for those satellites. For upcoming the Multi GNSS era, I hope the QZSS would become a good model to develop complementary relationship among the GNSS systems.

It is my personal opinion that Japan, as one of world economic powers, should contribute to the world with space development which requires high risks and major investments. Space-based PNT service is one of the most common and indispensable services in our daily life. In terms of contribution with space development, I believe Japan should contribute to the world in the field of Space-based PNT service, cooperating with the international society. It is very significant for Japan to keep the technology and position to contribute to the world when the Multi- GNSS era comes. As a person who is in charge of the application and promotion of QZSS, I’m very happy to promote Japanese contribution to the world by using the Japanese technology of Space-based PNT service. I will do my best to launch the Multi GNSS Demonstration Campaign framework in order to promote Multi GNSS complementary relationship and to share the benefit of Multi GNSS with countries in the world.

The ultimate goal of ICG is to build a GNSS system of systems

Sharafat Gadimova

Programme Officer ICG Executive Secretariat UNOOSA, Vienna

Today we are involved in international space cooperation. Currently the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) provide a signal that is being used for a wide spectrum of applications of science and technology with economic benefits for users. Based on the “Vienna Declaration: Space Millennium for Human Development” of the Third United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III), the International Committee on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (ICG), established under umbrella of the United Nations, is meeting annually to promote the enhancement of and universal access to space-based navigation and positioning systems and their compatibility and interoperability. Part of the capacity-building and information dissemination efforts of ICG, as a unique combination of GNSS service providers, is the support for the International Space Weather Initiative, the development of GNSS education and training programmes, creation of awareness of global GNSS applications, and increasing information on and accessibility to the technical characteristics of existing GNSS systems. The ultimate goal of ICG is to build a GNSS system of systems. This will be achieved through the ICG by harmonizing different GNSS systems through cooperation among the providers and by taking into account needs of the user community.

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