On 15 December 2016 , European Galileo navigation system officially entered to service after European Commission announced about starting of Galileo Initial Services.
Finally after five years of launching satellites to orbit, constellation reached number of 18 and it was possible to start Galileo Initial Services. It is important moment in the history of ESA and European Union. EU achieved independence from American GPS system and entered to the market dominated until now by GPS. Also ESA managed to win race with Chinese Beidou navigation system and has a chance to beat Russian Glonass system, which is still utilized in degree below its possibilities. To reach full operationality ESA should launch additional 6 satellites (this number not includes backup spacecrafts).
Three services, which started on 15 December are:
- The Open Service is a free of charge service available for customer market; it is fully compatible with GPS standard and can be received on smartphones, car navigation systems or handheld navigation receivers.
- The Public Regulated Service is an encrypted version of the service for authorised users. It was developed for civil protection units, fire brigades and the police.
- The Search and Rescue Service will be part of Cospas-Sarsat international emergency system. Created in the late seventies rescue system was result of joining Sovet Cospas and Sarsat designed by USA, Canada, Great Britain and France. With utilization of Galileo time necessary to locate beacon will be reduced to 10 minutes and accuracy will be increased to 5 km.
Galileo, remaining under development from early nineties, was started officially in 2003. First launch of the satellite was conducted in 2011 and until 2016 ESA managed to deliver to 23222 km orbit 18 satellites. Program total cost is estimated for €5 billion. First satellite (only for testing algorithms) was Galileo In-Orbit Validation Element-A (GIOVE-A designed and manufactured by SSTL) was launched on atop of Soyuz-FG/Fregat on 28 December 2005. Next, GIOVE-B was designed and manufactured by Astrium and Thales Alenia Space and it was delivered to orbit by exact same launch vehicle on 27 April 2008. Next four satellites belonged to In-Orbit Validation (IOV) constellation. First pair was launched 12 October 2012 on atop of Soyuz rocket from Guiana Space Center. Satellites were designed and manufactured by Astrium GmbH and Thales Alenia Space and were used for validation process and testing how system is cooperating with ground receivers. Second pair from IOV was launched on 12 March 2013. This opened door for launching Full Operational Capability satellites (FOC) contracted for OHB System and Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) (bus/navigational instruments). Total number of contracted FOC satellites is 22.