European GPS project gets moving

The Economist has a good article discussing the rationale and controversy behind the new European GPS system that launched its first satellite on December 28th. Named Galileo, the new system promises 1 meter accuracy for users of the free service and centimeter accuracy for those willing to pay for service. Importantly, it is this accuracy that has caused some of the controversy. In particular the U.S. is worried that this type of accuracy will be used against it militarily. This fear, rational or not, is compounded by the fact that China is a major backer financially of Galileo and the U.S. views China as a threat on some level. From the European perspective, particularly French according to the Economist, the system will help relieve the dependence on the U.S. system, which can be turned off by the U.S. military whenever they choose. While it will be several more years before the system is operational you may start saving your money now because in addition to paying for centimeter accuracy you will also need a totally different receiver as Galileo will not be compatible with the current GPS system.