Friday, March 23, 2007

China Builds A Backup GPS System for Wartime

China Builds A Backup GPS System for Wartime
In Strategy Page

March 23, 2007: "China is building a satellite positioning system that they may reserve solely for military use, and only in wartime at that. This would enable China to jam GPS, or destroy GPS satellites, while using their more distant (and thus more difficult to destroy) satellite positioning system. All this came out of what was shaping up to be a technological disaster.

Chinas foray into military space satellites has produced a lot of failed experiments, as have their other efforts to develop high tech. For example, back in 2003, China completed a satellite navigation system called BeiDou. Think of it as GPS light, and different, and potentially not very useful. BeiDou only covers East Asia, but not all of China. But it covers the areas along the coast, and Taiwan. The BeiDou system is less accurate than GPS, slower, but it does allow two way traffic. This is useful for sending short messages (up to 120 Chinese characters so, about a hundred words). Sort of IM (Instant Messaging) class stuff. The system can only handle a few hundred thousand users, but that would be sufficient for the number of Chinese troops involved in any major operation. BeiDou also suffers some reliability problems, and is apparently very vulnerable to jamming and spoofing. Because of all that, it is believed that BeiDou is just a first generation system. A training system, one where China learns the ins and outs of building satellite navigation systems.

China realized that the only way to make BeiDou into something useful was to keep the system secret. Or at least off line most of the time. Normally, China uses GPS, and soon the Russian GLONASS and eventually the European Galileo satellite positioning system. But having a backup system, in BeiDou, could be a decisive military asset. The BeiDou satellites are geostationary, and thus farther away from earth (and harder for killer satellites to get to.) Not invulnerable, just more of a hassle to deal with. In wartime, even hassles can be useful".

Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Imbróglio" no Galileo

Tempos de incerteza quando ao projecto de navegação e posicionamento por satélite europeu. As dúvidas quanto à viabilidade do Galileo face á concorrência do norte-americano GPS e do chinês Beidou juntam-se aos desentendimentos entre as empresas do consórcio responsável pelo desenvolvimento do projecto.

As notícias avolumam-se:
"Galileo companies given deadline ", BBC.
"Les Européens tentent d'éviter le naufrage de Galileo", Le Monde.

Monday, March 19, 2007

EU Warns Against Further Delays to Galileo System

DW, 18/03/2007

"The European Commission warned that it will examine new ways to complete the Galileo satellite navigation system after the project stalled amid doubts about profitability.
The system, worth around 1.5 billion euros ($1.95 billion) and meant to be in space in 2010, is aimed at breaking Europe's dependence on the free US Global Positioning System (GPS), used aboard many cars, boats and aircraft and providing Europe with commercial and strategic navigational autonomy.

In a letter sent last week to the European Union's German presidency, Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot requested a mandate to study "reasonable alternatives" to the current Galileo consortium of eight private contractors.

Stepping up the rhetoric, he accused industry giants AENA, Alcatel, EADS, Finmeccanica, Hispasat, Inmarsat, TeleOp and Thales of being responsible for delays in the project.

Late, expensive, no one in control.
I consider that the delay so far accumulated and the absence of any sign of progress ... must now be considered as risk for the delivery of the project in the timeline that we envisaged," Barrot wrote.

"Moreover, we have to fear significant cost increases which could go well beyond the foreseen budget," he said in the letter, which was also sent to the eight contractors and the European parliament. "I will undertake to explore alternatives for delivering the project, based on a detailed technical, financial, program management review."

Barrot complained there was no single company structure to regroup the partners, nor any negotiator to speak with the Galileo Supervisory Authority, the public body overseeing the project.

Delays expected to continue

Negotiations to set up a consortium have been suspended as the companies involved are at loggerheads over sharing development costs, and a final agreement on a 20-year services and satellite contract is also unlikely to be completed before the end of next year.
Barrot's spokesman said the timetable for putting the system, to ultimately involve around 30 satellites, in place had already been delayed until 2011, and that more slippage was expected.

"More than ever we have a responsibility to make this project succeed, ensuring at the same time Europe's independence and excellence in a sector critical to our future competitiveness," Barrot added.

Can Galileo make a profit?

The Financial Times newspaper said there were doubts whether Galileo could attract enough revenue, as people within the project doubted whether it would restart unless there were guarantees it could win business from the free American GPS.

"There is a doubt over the revenues," an unnamed executive told the paper. "Why sell Pepsi-Cola when you can get Coca-Cola free?"

While it is difficult to see what real alternatives to the big eight Barrot has, the commissioner said he wanted to set a May 10 deadline for the companies to act, and expects to receive a mandate to make such a demand next week.
He said he would review the companies' reactions and recommend how the project should proceed to EU transport minister in June.

Competition moving forward

In contrast to GPS, which is run by the US Defence Department, Galileo will be used for civilian purposes only.

The European satellite navigation system will monitor natural disasters, in air and sea rescue services and a range of commercial uses, including possibly road safety and pricing.

The EU fears that China could launch a competitor before Galileo is fully operational. Russia is currently also improving its global satellite navigation fleet and will have spacecraft in orbit by the end of this year".

European Commission sets Galileo satellite navigatiion deadline

Eight suppliers must form a single company by May
By Paul Meller, IDG News Service
March 19, 2007

"The European Commission has given the eight companies picked to build and run the Galileo satellite navigation system until 10 May to create a single company and choose a chief executive.
The commission is concerned about slipping deadlines and a lack of coordination for Galileo, planned as Europe's answer to the US's global positioning system (GPS). But it remains vague about what it would do if the companies fail to meet the deadline.
"If there's no reaction in time then we'll have to look for alternative solutions," said commission spokesman Michele Cercone. "We'll talk about the alternatives after 10 May if the deadline is missed," he added.
Earlier this week, Jacques Barrot, commissioner for transport, wrote to the companies warning them that there was "a risk to the delivery of the project on the timeline that we envisaged". He added: "We have to fear significant cost increases which could go well beyond the foreseen budget."
Galileo was supposed to be up and running in 2010. However, 2011 now looks more realistic, Cercone said, but added that the launch could slip further. "I do not exclude that we will have to revisit some fundamental aspects of our earlier assumptions and approach," Barrot added.
Cercone denied that this meant stripping the companies of their contracts. "There are worries but there still is time," he said.
"The companies just have to accelerate their work," he said. The commercial viability of Galileo was questioned late last year when it emerged that a satellite system being developed by China would compete with Galileo in some commercial markets. However, the commission denies that this has anything to do with the current problems besetting Galileo.
"There's absolutely no linkage here," Cercone said. "There is a degree of complementarily between the different systems that exist and ones that are being developed by Europe, China, India and Russia. It is potentially such a huge market that there will be space for all actors," he added.
He likened the satellite navigation market to the market for mobile phones which emerged in the 1990s. "Satellite navigation could become as useful to daily life as mobile phones and there are numerous operators in that market," he said. The companies in the Galileo consortium are EADS, the Franco-German parent of Airbus, Thales Navigation and Alcatel-Lucent from France, Inmarsat of the UK, Italy's Finmeccanica, Aena and Hispasat from Spain and a German joint venture led by Deutsche Telekom.
Galileo is intended to be a more accurate version of the GPS system currently in use around the world. It is also intended to be for purely civilian use. The GPS system can be shut down by the Pentagon when the US military needs it".

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Power struggle jeopardises EU Galileo satellite system

By Helena Spongenberg

"Political wrangling between governments and companies in the EU is jeopardising the bloc's biggest ever joint technological project – the Galileo satellite navigation system – which is already facing several delays.An internal power struggle has led to the negotiations in the private consortium - consisting of eight European firms who will implement and run the Galileo system - being suspended because they cannot agree a common commercial position.
EU transport commissioner Jacques Barrot said on Wednesday (14 March) he was writing to the companies building the Galileo system to discover the reason for more than a year's delay. "They are just not working," his spokesman Michele Cercone said, according to the Financial Times.The consortium includes European aerospace company EADS, France's Thales and Alcatel-Lucent, the UK's Inmarsat, Italy's Finmeccanica, AENA and Hispasat of Spain, and a German group led by Deutsche Telekom.The companies are reportedly holding out for more work to be guaranteed by the consortium.Officials from the EU and the European Space Agency have since June 2005 been negotiating with this group to put in place the details of a 20-year concession."The Spanish firms are the current block," says one source close to the consortium's negotiations, according to"They are making outrageous demands over guaranteed work share arrangements. But Spain has already secured a completely unnecessary control centre and people aren't having any more," the source said.However, there have also been complaints of political meddling, with EU member states still pushing for their interests to be taken into account. Arguments continue over where control centres should be sited and where industrial contracts should be placed.Severe delaysGalileo was meant to end reliance on the US Global Positioning System (GPS) by 2010. The US version is a free network but it is military-run meaning that it can be switched off at the whim of the Pentagon. The date has now been postponed to 2011 at the earliest.Galileo's 30 satellites are to be launched into mid-Earth orbits at a cost of around €3.2 billion, with one third of that coming from EU taxpayers, and the rest coming from the consortium hoping to regain its investment by selling location-based technology and services.The consortium was meant to have formed a single Galileo operating company by the end of 2006 as well as appointed an independent chief executive.The delays mean that orders cannot be placed for Galileo's 30 needed satellites."This is posing major problems. As time schedules slip, costs go up," says Paul Verhoef – the commission's Galileo program manager, according to Continued delays could also have an expensive knock-on effect. Last week the European Space Agency, was forced to order Giove-A2, a €30 million Galileo signal testing satellite.It had not planned for the satellite but ordered it to be placed in orbit to maintain rights to Galileo's frequency allocations expected to run out mid-2008.It has fallen to the German government – which currently holds the agenda-setting EU presidency - to try to break the impasse. The country's transport minister, Wolfgang Tiefensee, is set to chair a number of critical meetings, with one of them being a gathering of EU transport ministers in Brussels next week."The consortium must fulfil the conditions and obligations it agreed to in 2005," a spokesman for Tiefensee's office told "We expect substantial progress by June.""We will give the companies an ultimatum," a French diplomat said, according to the Financial Times".

Friday, March 16, 2007

Beidou: espaço e posicionamento

Texto publicado no jornal Hoje Macau, 16 de Março de 2007.

José Carlos Matias

Nas últimas semanas, o programa espacial chinês voltou à agenda dos meios de comunicação devido à realização do teste anti-satélite que destrui um antigo satélite meteorológico no espaço. Um outro desenvolvimento que recebeu menos atenção reflecte um outro passo dado pela China no âmbito da tecnologia espacial: foi lançado o quarto satélite do sistema de navegação Beidou, depois de quatro anos de inactividade do programa de navegação por satélite da China. Começa assim a desenhar-se um sistema alternativo ao norte-americano GPS e mesmo ao sistema europeu Galileo, do qual a China faz parte enquanto parceiro externo preferencial. À medida que vai emergindo dos escombros do mundo pós-Guerra Fria uma ordem internacional caracterizada por um multipolarismo económico, no espaço desenha-se uma lógica multipolar em que os principais actores são os Estados Unidos, China, União Europeia e Rússia.O Beidou (Ursa Menor em chinês) é, comparativamente ao GPS ou ao Galileo, um sistema limitado, uma vez que tendo apenas quatro satélites no espaço em órbita geoestacionária cobrindo apenas pouco mais que o território da China e as zonas adjacentes.

O “salto em frente” do Beidou

Contudo são cada vez mais óbvios os sinais de que o Beidou deverá evoluir para um sistema de navegação e posicionamento por satélite, rival dos já existentes GPS dos Estados Unidos, ao russo GLONASS e ao projecto europeu Galileo, que está a dar os primeiros passos. Aliás, essa intenção é explícita no “Livro Branco das Actividades Espaciais da China”, documento em que é referido como um dos objectivos para a primeira década do século XXI o estabelecimento de um sistema independente de navegação e posicionamento, uma tecnologia que permite através da triangulação de sinais entre um aparelho receptor, uma base terrestre e, no mínimo a combinação de sinais de três satélites obter com precisão – dependendo do serviço que se está autorizado a usar – o posicionamento de uma pessoa ou objecto.
Sendo uma tecnologia usada cada vez mais para fins civis, os sistemas de navegação e posicionamento têm potencialidades militares imensas, como de resto foi visível na última invasão norte-americana do Iraque. De resto, o único sistema em funcionamento, o norte-americano GPS foi criado nos anos 1970 com propósitos militares e ainda hoje está na dependência do Departamento de Defesa dos Estados Unidos. Quanto ao Galileo, dirigido pela Agência Espacial Europeia (ESA) e pelo Directorate-General de Transportes e Energia da Comissão Europeia, trata-se de um projecto apresentado como meramente civil mas que tem obviamente implicações importantes ao nível da modernização e reforço da Política Europeia de Segurança e Defesa. O Galileo já tem um de uma série de 26 satélites em órbita e espera-se que m 2010 tenha o sistema a funcionar em pleno.

As relações EUA-UE-China

Em 2003, a China e a União Europeia assinaram um acordo de cooperação no projecto Galileo, segundo o qual Pequim contribui com 200 milhões de euros, tornando-se assim no principal parceiro externo de Bruxelas neste sistema alternativo ao GPS. Na altura, os EUA tentaram impedir a entrada da China no Galileo, depois de antes terem procurado junto dos estados-membros mais “transatlanticistas” abortar o nascimento do sistema europeu de navegação por satélite. Para Washington a perspectiva do Exército Popular de Libertação ter acesso a uma tecnologia sensível com esta potencialidade militar suscita fortes dores de cabeça, em especial às sensibilidades que advogam a tese da “Ameaça Chna”, que habitam em certos círculos próximos do Pentágono. É o caso de Hans Binnendijk: “É preciso que haja um acordo transatlântico sobre a forma como a Europa se vai comportar se os EUA se vissem forçados a um conflito com a China. Por exemplo, a China investiu fortemente no Galileo, o sistema europeu de navegação por satélite. A China vai utilizar essa tecnologia para direccionar as armas de precisão. Esta possibilidade deve ser negada à China em tempos de guerra com os Estados Unidos ou os seus aliados norte-americanos”. Esta visão alude à perspectiva de uma guerra no estreito, um cenário improvável, que ainda ocupa as mentes de vários analistas nos EUA. A UE já garantiu que o código de precisão máxima, o PRS Code, apenas vai ser concedido a entidades militares e de segurança dos estados-membros da UE e às Forças de Reacção Rápida, no contexto do desenvolvimento da Política Externa de Segurança Comum e da Política Europeia de Segurança e Defesa. Além do mais, em 2004 Washington e Bruxelas assinaram um acordo de interoperabilidade entre o GPS e Galileo de modo a evitar a sobreposição de sinais entre os dois sistemas. Contudo, a desconfiança dos norte-americanos mantém-se. David Lague, no International Herald Tribune, salienta o fundamento dos receios de Washington: “O acesso da China ao sistema Galileo é encarado por alguns analistas como um retrocesso sério nos esforços dos Estados Unidos de limitar o acesso da China a tecnologia militar avançada. Os críticos da participação chinesa no projecto Galileo dizem que a União Europeia está, na verdade, a ajudar à modernização militar da China apesar da existência do embargo à venda de armas”.

Galileo: quo vadis?

Para os mais atentos, parece claro que um dos objectivos da participação da China no Galileo tem a ver com o acesso à transferência de tecnologia. O objectivo já tinha sido anunciado no Livro Branco das Actividades Espaciais Chinesas: a construção de um sistema independente chinês. Os passos estão a ser dados mais rapidamente do que alguns pensavam. Quando falados em sistemas de navegação e posicionamento não nos referimos apenas às potencialidades militares, mas cada vez mais às aplicações civis. Um dos objectivos da UE nesta cooperação com a China era ter acesso ao mercado emergente e de massas chinês ao nível das telecomunicações e transportes. A Xinhua referia há quatro meses que o Beidou poderá oferecer um sistema com margem de erro de 10 metros que estaria disponível a todos os chineses “gratuitamente”, ou seja apenas mediante a aquisição do aparelho receptor. Ora, como Paul Marks alerta na revista New Scientist: “Se isto se vier a concretizar, poderá ser um grande problema para o consórcio Galileo que esperava recuperar o investimento de 2.5 mil milhões de euros vendendo receptores e subscrições comerciais na China”. O investimento da China em indústrias de ponta e sectores que representam activos estratégicos na aeronáutica e no espaço não se fica por aqui. Esta semana, a Xinhua revelou que projecto para a construção de aviões de longo curso rival da Boeing e da conturbada europeia Airbus começará a dar os primeiros passo em 2010. Começa a desenhar-se assim uma relação triangular de forças em termos geoeconómicos, especialmente no que diz respeito a indústrias estratégicas que envolvem aplicações militares e civis - aeronáutica e projecção de poder no espaço. A Rússia, o “quarto elemento” nesata dinâmica, emerge cada vez mais como potência energética, ao mesmo tempo que se prepara para finalmente colocar em funcionamento o GLONASS, o sistema russo de navegação e posicionamento por satélite.