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Brussels, 01 April 2009

EGNOS: Commission takes major step forward in European satellite navigation

The European Community, represented by the European Commission, has today become the owner of the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) infrastructure and entrusted the company ESSP SaS with the operation of the system. EGNOS is the precursor of Galileo, the global navigation satellite system that the European Union is developing.

EGNOS offers all users of satellite radio navigation a high-performance navigation and positioning service in Europe. The system is composed of three transponders installed in geostationary satellites and a ground network of about 40 positioning stations and four control centres, all interconnected. EGNOS can help to improve the accuracy of the current GPS civil signals by augmenting them and thereby increasing the reliability and accuracy of the signals. It will be used foremost for safety-critical transport applications (for example in the aviation and maritime sectors).

The EGNOS system was developed within the framework of the European Space Agency's Research Programme under the aegis of a trilateral agreement between the European Commission (EC), the European Space Agency (ESA) and Eurocontrol. More than €600 million were invested over the last 12 years to develop the EGNOS system, involving a considerable number of European industrial companies.

In this new phase, the Commission has become the owner of the entire system infrastructure on behalf of the European Community. ESSP SaS will be under contract to the Commission to manage the operations and maintenance of the EGNOS system. This enterprise based in Toulouse, France, was founded by seven air navigation service providers: Aena (Spain), DFS (Germany), DSNA (France), ENAV (Italy), NATS (UK), NAV Portugal and Skyguide (Switzerland). The European Space Agency will maintain the role of design and procurement agent through a Delegation Agreement recently signed by Mr Matthias Ruete, Director General of DG TREN, representing the Commission, and Mr Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

EGNOS complements the existing American GPS system. It disseminates integrity signals in real-time, providing information on the health of the GPS constellation. In addition, correction data improves the accuracy of the current GPS services from about ten metres to about two metres. The EGNOS coverage area includes most European states and has the built-in capability to be extended to other regions, such as North Africa, EU neighbouring countries and more generally regions within the coverage of three geostationary satellites being used to transmit the EGNOS signal. From today the EGNOS signal will be available for operations on an "as is" and "as available" basis.

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