September 7, 2005

India Joins Europe’s Galileo Satellite System

NEW DELHI -- India joined Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system on Wednesday, becoming the fourth non-EU country to join the program that rivals the U.S. Global Positioning System.

Galileo is Europe's plan to create its own global navigation satellite system, with uses ranging from helping motorists navigate electronic maps to assisting search-and-rescue operations.

It is scheduled to go into service in 2008 and eventually will have 30 satellites orbiting almost 24,000 km (15,000 miles) above the earth.

Indian and European Commission officials signed an agreement in New Delhi during an India-EU business summit, a statement from the commission said.

"The agreement ... will ensure the availability of highest quality Galileo services in India," the statement said.

"Considering that India has well proven capabilities in space, satellite and navigation related activities, the agreement will provide a positive impulse for India and European industrial cooperation in many high-tech areas."

Details of India's financial contribution to the project were not available.

China, Israel and Ukraine have already joined Galileo and talks were also underway with Argentina, Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, Norway, Chile, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada and Australia, it said.

Europe aims to launch the first satellite in the program later this year aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket.

The project is meant to rival the U.S. Global Positioning System. It will be interoperable with GPS as well as GLONASS, Russia's global satellite navigation system.

Europe is undertaking Galileo to ensure independent, uninterrupted access to such a system, which the other two military-operated systems cannot guarantee.