Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation was activated Thursday

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Its services are free at the basic level worldwide but for the instant will be available only on smartphones and navigation units already fitted with Galileo-compatible microchips. The high-precision capabilities will be available for paying commercial users. Galileo is one of the prestige civilian-controlled projects of the European Union. It offers a precision of up to 4 meters for its fully open service, compared with GPS which offers a precision of up to 15 meters.

Galileo is to provide a new global search and rescue (SAR) function. In combination with the search-and-rescue satellites of the COSPS-SARSAT system Galileo  will be able also to better locate ships or mountain climbers in distress. At the same time, the system is projected to provide a signal, the Return Link Message (RLM), to the emergency beacon, informing them that their situation has been detected and help is on the way. Galileo has two ground operations centres, at Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich in Germany and at Fucino in Italy.

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