Galileo is the worldwide satellite navigation system (GNSS) of the European Union. It is comparable to the GPS of the United States and provides radio signals for global positioning, navigation and determining the time. Once it is fully operational, Galileo will provide four services:

  • The open service: a free service for global positioning, navigation and determining the time that is aimed at the general public. It is comparable to GPS and fully interoperable with it. The service can be used by devices such as smartphones and car navigation systems with Galileo-compatible chipsets. The latest and newest equipment already has this.
  • The public regulated service (PRS): intended for users authorised by the government and the emergency services. The service is encrypted in order to guarantee the continuity of the service for the users in the event of a national emergency or crisis situations, such as terrorist attacks.
  • The commercial service: improved accuracy for professional use.
  • The search and rescue services: European contribution to “Cospas-Sarsat”, the international system for the localisation of distress beacons. Galileo will significantly improve the system. For example, it will reduce the time needed to find somebody who activates an emergency beacon at sea or in the mountains. The time will be reduced from three hours to just ten minutes. The determination of the location will also be far more accurate. Furthermore, the person who activates the beacon will receive a message that the rescue team is on the way.

Unlike GPS, Galileo is not a military system but a civil system under civil control. Consequently, its availability is guaranteed under virtually all circumstances. Not only individual users, but also essential services such as payments and electricity networks depend on the signal. With Galileo, Europe protects its vital infrastructure.

The Galileo Reference Centre is being built in Noordwijk. It will play an important role in the quality control of the services provided by Galileo from next year onwards.

NSO is involved in Galileo through its participation in the Programme Council of ESA, and as an adviser to the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.