Europe will launch its own global positioning satellites built by German aerospace firm OHB System as the continent moves to become independent of the U.S. GPS system, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Robert Wall writes that Europe plans to launch 30 Galileo satellites totaling $13.3 billion, with joint funding coming from the European Union and the European Space Agency.
Development of the satellites began following concerns that the U.S. would eventually limit or shut down its GPS system, which has been used internationally for commerce, travel and other applications, the report said.
“This technology, which is key for many services, should be in the hands of Europe,” said Didier Faivre, program director at ESA.
Wall reports that the Galileo will have additional features that include encrypted signals for government use and faster detection of emergency beacons for search-and-rescue operations.
The report said the first pair of satellites for the European GPS constellation will launch this week from Kourou, French Guiana.
They will undergo several tests in space before full operations later this year and will work with the three remaining Airbus-built verification satellites launched into orbit two to three years ago.
According to the report, the first Galileo satellites will also initially operate alongside the U.S. GPS system before Europe develops a standalone capability by mid-2017.